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NEW YORK, Jan. 14, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Big Idea Ventures LLC, the global leader in early stage protein investing, has completed an investment in Stamford, Connecticut-based New Wave Foods®, a plant-based shellfish company. The company is offering a plant-based shrimp ready for restaurants and foodservice operators in 2021.

This investment was made in partnership with Zandbergen World’s Finest Meat and is part of New Wave Foods’ Series A round of $18 million that was headed by NEA, one of the leading global venture capital firms. This marks the first investment by Big Idea Ventures for its Generation Food platform, a later-stage platform for companies delivering real solutions to plastic pollution, food waste, CO2 emissions and water usage.

“We are thrilled to invest in and partner with the New Wave Foods team,” said Tom Mastrobuoni, Chief Investment Officer of Big Idea Ventures. “This round of capital will propel New Wave Foods into their next stage of growth and make a significant impact in the alternative protein market.”

New Wave Shrimp was created through close collaboration with top-tier chefs and renowned R&D experts. It is virtually indistinguishable from ocean shrimp in terms of taste and texture, and delivers great versatility for a wide range of shrimp dishes.

“We are set to disrupt the $9 billion shrimp industry with the introduction of a healthier, more environmentally friendly and sustainable, plant-based shrimp product,” said Mary McGovern, CEO of New Wave Foods. “Raising $18 million through this Series A enables us to aggressively enter the market, establish New Wave Foods as a brand leader and expand our product offerings.”

“We are excited to support New Wave Foods in its growth and look forward to working closely with the management team,” said Adriaan Figee, Chief Commercial Officer for Zandbergen World’s Finest Meat, a leading company in the international protein supply chain, headquartered in the Netherlands. “Plant-based protein products are an expanding part of the Zandbergen growth strategy and our investment in New Wave will expand our portfolio.” Since its foundation Zandbergen has been distributing and producing animal-based proteins, but expanded their assortment with alternative protein solutions in 2018. Recently they’ve also opened a brand-new co-manufacturing plant to produce plant-based products.

“Big Idea Ventures is focused on solving the world’s greatest challenges by backing the world’s best entrepreneurs,” said Andrew D. Ive, Founder and Managing General Partner of BIV. “New Wave is positioned to become a world leader in the alternative seafood protein sector delivering great products to consumers in a far more sustainable way.”

About Big Idea Ventures 
Big Idea Ventures LLC (BIV) is a multi-stage venture fund based in New York and Singapore. Founded by Andrew D. Ive, the firm seeks to solve the world’s greatest challenges by backing the world’s best entrepreneurs. BIV’s New Protein Fund I is a seed-stage fund investing in plant-and-cell-based food companies. Generation Food is a later-stage platform that invests in companies delivering real solutions to plastic pollution, food waste, CO2 emissions and water usage. For more information www.bigideaventures.com

About New Wave Foods®
New Wave Foods is a disruptor in the seafood market with its 100 percent plant-based shellfish products. The Company’s mission is to protect the oceans by creating delicious plant-based versions of popular over-fished or ecologically destructive shellfish and by bringing them to consumers through a wide array of foodservice locations. The Company’s first offering, New Wave™ Shrimp, is interchangeable with ocean shrimp in any shrimp recipe and is made from seaweed and plant protein. New Wave Foods will soon share its passion for delicious, sustainable plant-based foods with more food service operators and consumers by broadening its product offering and expanding beyond its current geographic footprint. Visit us at www.newwavefoods.com and follow us @newwavefoods.

Media Contacts

Big Idea Ventures | Worth Sparkman | 479-236-0674 | worth@bigideaventures.com

New Wave Foods | Lori Robinson | 917-242-8261 | LRobinson@mww.com

Asia will be at the forefront of cell-based meat innovation, outpacing the US and Europe, the current market leaders in alternative protein, predicts food investor Andrew D Ive.

“I think Asia will lead innovation in cell-based meat, seafood and dairy,” said the CEO and founder of the New York- and Singapore-based venture capital and accelerator firm, Big Idea Ventures (BIV). Its first fund, the $50m New Protein Fund, has invested in seven cell-based meat startups. “Europe and North America could get behind, if [the Asians] really do invest and become the leaders in it.”

Ive began investing in foodtech startups in 2015 as the managing director of SOSV’s Food-X accelerator. Speaking in an interview in December 2020, shortly after Singapore became the first country to approve the sale of lab-grown chicken for human consumption, Ive said other countries in Asia – home to nearly half a billion of the world’s undernourished people – would be similarly motivated to support cell-based meat as an answer to food security.

“We’ve all seen, with Covid-19, that the food supply chain is not as robust or as reliable as we thought,” he said. “Relying on your trading partners and neighbors to provide all or majority of the food to feed your population is not the best way for the future. Cultured or cell-based meat, seafood, and dairy allows a country to have more food security.

“We’re just at the beginning of that whole new cultured meat industry,” he continued. “It’s not just a bubble. We’re at the beginning of something transformative.”

US-Singapore network

Ive left SOSV to establish Big Idea Ventures so he could “focus on solving the world’s greatest challenges by seeking out and supporting great entrepreneurs.”

BIV is headquartered and runs accelerators in New York and Singapore. Temasek, the Singapore sovereign wealth fund, is an anchor investor, alongside US food giant Tyson Foods and Swiss multinational plant equipment manufacturer Bühler Group. “We are the only fund Tyson has invested in,” Ive said.

Andrew D Ive, CEO and founder of Big Idea Ventures © Big Idea Ventures

“We were the first alternative protein accelerator in Singapore,” he added. “The Singaporean government backed us in our fund, and they backed our accelerator. They have a fantastic vision of how Singapore is going to be the leader in the future of the food ecosystem in Asia.”

With a goal of investing in 70–80 startups, BIV launched its New Protein Fund in April 2019. Now running its third cohort, the fund has backed 40 plant-based and cell-based protein startups so far, either through its accelerator or directly. BIV also launched a second fund, Generation Food, with a target size of $250m, in April 2020.

Its current portfolio includes Asia’s most-funded cell-based seafood startup Shiok Meats, which has raised $20.2m to date; MeliBio, which uses microbial fermentation to create honey without bees; Atlanta-based Revolution Gelato and Beijing-based Zhenmeat.

The fund scored its first exit with Belgian cultivated fat producer Peace of Meat, which joined the BIV accelerator last year, when it was fully acquired by Tel Aviv Stock Exchange-listed Meat-Tech 3D.

Invest in food for impact

So far 60–70 startups from Asia and 140–150 from North America have applied to join BIV’s accelerator for the next cohort. US startups make up the bulk of those shortlisted, followed by Indian startups and a handful from other Asian countries. “So, I’d like to see a lot more companies coming through from Asia,” Ive said.

It was at Food-X that Ive decided he wanted to focus on alternative protein – “the area where there was the most innovation; also the most opportunity, from an impact perspective.”

So, he left Food-X to start BIV in November 2018. “Food-X was very broad, investing in many categories in the food industry from hardware, software to supply chain and sustainability.” Without focusing on a specific area, it is very difficult to create an ecosystem to benefit all portfolio companies, he said.

I’d like to see a lot more companies coming through from Asia

Offering a viable alternative source of protein would help shift the market away from inefficient animal farming, which Ive says is second only to transportation in contributing to climate change.

“If we could bring great-tasting, good-priced [alternative] foods to the meat, seafood and dairy space, then we would potentially reduce the reliance that we have as a global population on animal factory farming, on overfishing of the oceans and on the dairy industry.”

More foodtech IPOs?

Ive reckons the overall foodtech ecosystem is starting to strengthen as it offers better exit opportunities for investors, who have tended to prefer other sectors with quicker and more spectacular returns.

“Many investors in the food industry are corporates putting money into young companies and ultimately acquiring them, but this may change,” he said. “We’re likely to see more IPOs because a lot of these young [alternative protein] companies are truly innovating and able to grow revenues rapidly enough to maintain their independence and move quickly toward an IPO.”

Meanwhile BIV’s second fund, Generation Food, will invest in startups working on reducing plastic, water, CO2 emissions and waste throughout the food production system. “If we’re going to produce food, we need to do it with a more sustainable footprint,” Ive said.

Generation Food will start investing in Series A and B, or even later-stage, companies from 2021 and has a dedicated team to build and invest BIV’s second fund.

“The reality is when you start a fund, it probably takes you 12 months to understand how you are going to be different in the marketplace than the other funds out there, and to be able to communicate that strongly and clearly to potential investors,” he said.

A surge of investor interest in alternative protein startups last year also proved timely. In the first quarter of 2020, “more money went into plant-based and cell-based companies as investments, versus the entire 2019,” Ive said. “We have been able to close more money from investors over the last six months than the prior year.”

We were able to close more money from investors over the last six months than the prior year

BIV is also expanding its accelerator programs to Europe and India in 2021 (“the accelerators work together across the major markets globally”). In October 2020, BIV launched the India Alternative Protein Fund with two local partners – financial services firm Ashika Group and not-for-profit Good Food Institute India. The Mumbai-based program will support startups involved in developing plant-based, fermentation-derived and cultivated protein-based food.

Lifetime relationships

Ive described the initial fundraising for the New Protein Fund as “challenging.” Most investors took a wait-and-see attitude. “It was our first fund and people wanted to see how we would do, whether we’re getting a good portfolio and making good investments.”

About 30% of the fund is invested through the accelerator programs, $200,000 for each startup in exchange for about a 7% stake in each company. The remaining 70% is used as direct follow-up investments in selected portfolio companies.

Each program, which is conducted biannually, lasts 20 weeks, almost double the length of time at other accelerators like Food-X. “That’s necessary to help the companies we’re working with. I always felt we were just getting started in the traditional 12-week programs,” Ive said.

Besides funding support, BIV provides the selected startups with access to test kitchen facilities, food technology experts as mentors and assistance with production and scaling.

“By bringing innovative startups together with large food companies which have different expertise, we have been able to get better at producing products that look, smell and taste like the foods that we’re attempting to replace or to substitute.”

And it’s not just a five-month relationship, “it’s for a lifetime,” he said. “BIV will continue to work with the startups on a monthly basis after the acceleration ends.”

The majority of the 40 companies in the New Protein Fund portfolio have closed follow-on funding, “in many cases with 7-digit-USD investment.” He added: “About 80% of the companies in our first cohort have received follow-on funding over the last 12 months,” with nearly half receiving funding from outside investors.

Ive said he started BIV when he was about to turn 50 and had his teenage daughter in mind. “I came to the conclusion that the next 10 years were the time where I was going to be able to have maximum impact in my personal career – what can I do from a business perspective, taking all of the lessons I’ve learned – which will ultimately allow me to make the biggest positive impact on the planet … solving big challenges.”

And it’s entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers who will solve the world’s challenges, be it global warming, water shortage or malnutrition, he said.

“By making investments in companies that will potentially change industries, we can not only make good returns but also do good.”

It’s a great time to love vegan food in Singapore, as artisanal brands are cropping up left, right and centre. With an influx of creative souls pushing the boundaries of flavourful plant-based food; homegrown vegan delicacies are now a thing. Think artisanal cheeses, nut butter, curry puffs, desserts and so much more.

It is now a rarity to walk into a restaurant in Singapore without seeing ‘VO’ or little plant symbols proudly declaring where the vegetarian and vegan food options are on a menu. This got us reflecting at Green Is The New Black about how many delicious vegan food products have sprung up recently in Singapore, and so we wanted to share some of our favourites. From artisanal cheeses to nut butter to the most incredible chocolate desserts to entire vegan grocers – what an exciting time to be a vegan foodie in Singapore. Enjoy!

 

>> Check out our list of vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Singapore too

 

vegan food vegan snacks singapore

SAVOURY

4MY | Vegan Camembert Cheese

Charged up to take on the dairy industry, 4MY is a made in Singapore and their first product Yeti is a fully edible natural bloomy white rind that would be comparable to a Camembert or a Brie. It has a deliciously buttery heart, supports sustainability and is 100% plant-based. The flavour comes from the fermentation of cashews and does not contain additives, preservatives or flavourings. They use a  traditional fermentation process which takes around three weeks.

Order here S$18

Nut Busters | Artisanal Nut Butter

Handcrafted in micro-batches, these creamy mouthfuls of heaven bring soul, flavour and sustainability to nut butter. Fair warning, once you have tried a mouthful, no other nut butter will compare. For every jar sold they plant a tree in Indonesia, and as they say ‘not only will you get to get some busted nuts, but you’ll also get to bust deforestation.’ No added oils, sugar or nonsense. Raw, keto and plant-based.

Order here S$18.90-21.90

Loaded Gun Kitchen | Plant-based dips

Most creative branding and boldly flavoured to match – these dips pack a real punch. They are homemade and experimental, with flavours like kick-ass carrot kimchi hummus, sweet miso cashew cream, and kombucha bbq pinto bean. And they are not only for crackers and crudites, they have a library of creative recipes to cook with the dips, including pizzas, pasta, and croquette.

Order here S$15-45

vegan food singapore curry puff

Vegan Haven | Vegan curry puffs

Dairy-free curry puffs, that are so good you forget that they are vegan. Nothing processed here, they are handmade daily with love. All the flavours are created in their own kitchen using the best ingredients, including young jack fruit. Flavours include sambal, Thai green curry, mala and rendang. And they are Muslim owned.

Order here S$2-4 apiece

Kroodi | Artisanal Vegan Cheese

Award-winning homegrown artisanal vegan cheese, naturally free from dairy, lactose, cholesterol, and without gluten, refined sugar and preservatives. These cheese are beautifully spreadable with a variety of exciting flavours, that include basil, cheddar, truffle and red pepper.

Order here or on redmart S$7-55

Karana | Plant-based meat

Want that meat texture or filling but without all the artificial nasties or dodgy processing? Enter Karana, an irresistible alternative to meat made from young jackfruit, a sustainable and abundant plant. You shouldn’t have to choose between health, sustainability and taste – and now you don’t have too. Karana is launching in Singapore as we speak – stay tuned for where to try them.

Check them out here

vegan food singapore dessert

SWEET

The Clean Addicts | Whole-foods bakery

A whole-foods bakery that specialises in nutrient-dense and guilt-free desserts and protein balls made with real food. Their products are vegan, refined sugar-free, with gluten-free and diabetic-friendly options. No artificial colours, flavours or preservatives allows you to eat clean, and feel good. Born out of a need to create healthy cakes for her mother, led to the creation of these clean, guilt-free vegan treats. 

Order here S$29-100

Best Ever Vegan Brownies

These are honestly some of the best brownies we have ever tasted, and we have ordered them way more than we care to admit. They are dewy on the inside, crunchy on the outside, and the perfect amount of chocolate (not too rich or too heavy!). In their first three months, they raised over $1300 for local animal protection charity Acres. Batches are currently made once a week with three varieties to choose from: original (topped with salt flakes), cookie dough, or speculoos.

Order them here $55 for a full slab or $35 per half slab

Roa | Artisanal Patisserie

Chocolate cakes and cupcakes that are vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free and eggless. They use avocados and not butter, brown rice milk, and psyllium husk. And you’ll be pleasantly surprised that they are strong on taste but light on calories. Nine months of R&D to create the perfect cake for her god-daughter who had food allergies, but a determination that dietary restrictions should not be a reason to miss out on delicious treats.

Order here S$7-70

Happy Cioccolato | Handcrafted chocolates

Strong believers that we are what we eat, Happy Cioccolato creates food that is simple and comes from nature, not labs. If they can’t pronounce it, it’s not going in. And while they are at it, dairy, gluten, refined sugar, preservatives, nuts and soy are a no-no too. Instead, you can expect delicious chocolates that are friendly to your gut and skin.

Order here S$8-50

MARKETPLACES

Everyday Vegan | Online and offline vegan grocer

On World Vegan Day 2020 Everyday Vegan became the first all-vegan grocer to have a physical store in Singapore. With over 600+ vegan products, you can get your everyday groceries planet conscious and animal friendly. From organic fresh produce to cheese, wine, meat alternatives, canned foods, personal products, and so the lists goes on!

Order online or visit the store at Turf Club

Souley Green | Online marketplace

Shop worry free at Souley Green who ensures all their products are vegan and cruelty-free. From food to beauty and even household products, they have a vast selection of products.

Order online here

E011: Abby Lyall: Big Idea Ventures

Featured Guest Bio:
Abby Lyall is Vice President at Big Idea Ventures, focusing on Series A+ stage investments in sustainable food and agriculture. Prior to this role, Abby was Program Director for BIV’s seed stage alt-protein accelerator and the second employee at Quake Capital Partners.

Fund Information:
Big Idea Ventures is a global venture firm solving the world’s greatest challenges by backing the world’s best entrepreneurs. Our initial focus is on solving pressing problems in the food and agriculture space. BIV’s investors include Tyson Ventures, Temasek Holdings, and several other global food corporations.

Fund Site:
Contact:

01/6 Mumbai-based startup makes vegan eggs with plant protein

Would you like to try a vegan omelette that smells, looks and tastes just like an egg omelette but isn’t actually made with eggs? Sounds interesting, right? Well, a Mumbai-based startup has actually made vegan eggs which are entirely prepared with plant protein. The startup ‘Evo Foods’ was founded by Kartik Dixit and Shraddha Bhansali in August 2019 and in just one year, the startup is going places with their interesting products. The vegan eggs prepared by the startup can be used to make dishes like scrambled eggs, frittatas and even egg rolls.

02/6​ Tasting test

Anant Sharma, who works as a writer at a gaming agency was invited for the tasting test and was presented with a plate of fluffy omelette. The dish smelled and looked just like it was made with an actual egg.

“I couldn’t believe it wasn’t a real egg omelette,” Anant told The Better India. “The texture, the taste, everything was so close. It’s amazing that we have something like this in India already.”

03/6​ The need to switch to vegan

Do you know that animal agriculture contributes to 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, making it the largest singular factor in global warming. It beats even the entire transport industry in carbon footprint?

Shocked by this data, Kartik turned vegan years ago. Then, in the year 2014 after completing the Startup Leadership Program in Pune, he decided to create vegan alternatives to animal-based foods. He chose eggs, as they are widely consumed across states and is a readily available animal-based food product.

04/6​ How is the vegan egg made?

The startup has basically made a liquid egg replacement which is similar to what you get after beating an egg. With a calorific value less than that of an egg and with many added vitamins like D3 and B12, the liquid egg replacer is a protein rich source. It is completely devoid of cholesterol and antibiotics too.

“We take Indian legumes, extract proteins from it and use these proteins that are completely plant-based to make our product,” says Kartik.

05/6​ How the startup kicked off

Kartik then met Shraddha at a conference for food startups, where they discussed the idea and instantly hit it off. Shraddha had recently come back from the US armed with an education in hospitality and experience in the restaurant industry. She runs her own vegan restaurant in Mumbai called Candy & Green and is a huge proponent of sustainability, nutrition and a vegetarian lifestyle.

“What I really wanted was to change people’s perspective of food,” Shraddha explains. “And I realised that the best way to reach the maximum number of people was through something like Evo. Our goal is to create high-quality, affordable protein-sources for the world.”

06/6 ​Future plans

The startup is currently functioning with a team of six, which includes two founders, four food scientists and engineers. The startup grew as they got their initial funding from the Big Idea Ventures and Ryan Bethencourt- the leaders in the alternative food and protein space.

Speaking of their future plans, Kartik told The Better India, “Our focus will be fully on eggs, even in the near future. It’s a $200 billion market worldwide, so there’s enough space to make amazing egg products and improve them.”

Evo Foods have partnered with more than 25 restaurant brands to include their eggs as a vegan option on their menus, but their ultimate goal is to sell them directly in the market. If things go according to plan, you should be able to buy it from the supermarket in 300 ml and 600 ml bottles very soon.

The year 2020 will long be synonymous with the term ‘pivot’, with companies focusing on survival instead of growth.

2020 forced companies to digitalise and make inefficient business processes redundant.

It also exposed gaps in every industries, and companies had to relook into how business has typically been done.

If you have been wondering if now is the best time to start a company, here are three reasons why 2021 will be a great year to kickstart your business.

Higher Consumption Of Online Content

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the digitalization of the nation by leaps and bounds.

It has now become easier and more accessible for everyday people to start businesses such as e-commerce, virtual assistant work or coaching.

For one, e-commerce has spiked by nearly 40 per cent in the wake of Covid-19 if you are looking to start an online business.

Tech firms
Image Credit: TechCrunch / Glassdoor / Lazada / Qoo10

There has also been a rise in digital talent platforms, creating a new marketplace for high-skill freelance work as the world gears towards remote working. With these digital talents, it is now easier than ever to hire freelancers for your business.

According to the Harvard Gazette, a growing ecosystem of more than 300 talent platforms has emerged as digital transformation takes place.

The consumption of online content is also higher than ever with people staying at home and working remotely. This means that businesses that operate in the online space can potentially reach more customers or talent to join them.

In fact, the number of people around the world using the internet has grown to 4.54 billion in January 2020, an increase of 7 per cent (298 million new users) compared to January 2019. Covid-19 has further pushed up internet use 70 per cent.

Furthermore, those aged 65+ are set to continue their shift online during Covid-19 as they increasingly shop online and adopt digital payments, suggesting that the Internet is not just for the younger people.

survey of 2,000 internet users aged 16 and above found that 43 per cent of those in this age group have shopped more online since the start of the crisis, compared to 42 per cent amongst all adults.

In comparison, back in May 2019, just 16 per cent of those aged 65+ shopped online at least once a week.

Emergence Of New Opportunities

While 2020 may have killed many businesses, it has also sparked the birth of ingenious business ideas.

For example, we saw 3D printing companies using 3D technology to manufacture personal protection equipment (PPE) to meet the shortages.

3D printing has helped us see for ourselves the possibilities of the technology. Thanks to it, critical life-saving ventilators and respirators were 3D printed and supplied faster in other countries.

Business ideas that emerged during Covid-19
Image Credit:  Dezeen / MOGUL.sg / Accredify / MIRxes / Float Foods / CGTN.com

As a result, many companies are revisiting how products are being manufactured and some are thinking of ways to bring manufacturing back locally.

The Asia Pacific 3D printers market is set to grow by 21.4 per cent over 2020-2030 with a total addressable market cap of $58.83 billion despite the COVID-19 impact.

We also saw the creation of more plant-based options to curb food insecurity such as a plant-based egg or cell-based shrimp.

To this end, Singapore has intensified its efforts to grow the alternative protein industry in recent years, such as a US$50 million fund raised by Big Idea Ventures — backed by Temasek, Tyson Foods and Buhler — to invest in innovative startups working on alternative protein.

The government also took a major step to commit a total of S$144 million to catalyse and facilitate more investments in the agri-food space, which included priority areas such as urban agriculture and alternative proteins.

These innovative business ideas would not have materialised if it were not for the virus. While these needs existed before, there was less urgency to develop solutions for them.

If you are thinking about what solutions you wish you had, that are not currently being met, chances are there are probably others looking for the same solutions.

Therefore, 2021 might just be the best time to jump on these opportunities.

When starting a business, make sure it is specialised and targeted. Instead of capturing the entire market with a unique idea, target an underrepresented customer or industry.

Lack Of Time Is No Longer An Excuse

It is true that the pandemic has forced millions of people out of their jobs.

This presents the opportunity for us to execute that business idea we have always wanted to and start our own companies.

Remote working becoming the norm also means that we have more personal time to execute that business idea.

Checklist
Image Credit: Founder Institute

Therefore, there is no excuse now to say that “there is no time” when it comes to embarking on entrepreneurship.

In fact, there are a few businesses that started off as passion projects before making it big.

For example, Love, Bonito was started when its 3 founders sold clothes online to earn extra pocket money. They pooled a total of S$500 into starting the business, and the home business quickly turned into a full-fledged one.

The duo behind Vintagewknd started the brand as a passion project, and sold their carefully curated vintage pieces on Carousell.

They were juggling their full-time jobs before they took a leap of faith and launched Vintagewknd as a full-time project.

More Grants Available For S’pore Businesses

Singapore is lauded as one of the best places to start a business, and the good thing is, there are many available schemes to help new businesses gain a kickstart in the early stages.

In August, enhancements to the Startup Founder SG programme was announced by the government.

One of these enhancements is a new three-month venture building programme to help entrepreneurs build their startup.

Singaporean first-time entrepreneurs can now have access to a grant of S$50,000, up from S$30,000 previously, to help them kickstart their business ideas.

The government had also pledged an additional S$300 million to Startup Equity at the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI)’s Committee-of-Supply 2020.

Startup Equity was set up to catalyse more investments into Singapore-based deep-tech startups in key emerging sectors, including advanced manufacturing, pharmbio/medtech, and agri-food tech.

As part of the Startup SG Equity scheme, the government will co-invest with independent, qualified third party investors into eligible startups.

Following the MTI’s Committee of Supply 2020, the schemes will be enhanced to increase the investment cap for deep-tech startups from the current S$4 million to S$8 million and invest in selected venture capital firms that will in turn invest in deep-tech startups.

Furthermore, rental costs for retail spaces and office spaces are significantly lower now, so now could be a good time to start a business.

A Year Of New Beginnings

Overall, 2021 should be a year of renewal as businesses relook into their strategies and see how they can do things differently than before.

It is also a clean slate for us to reevaluate our goals and act on them, such as becoming an entrepreneur.

While 2020 may not have been the best year, you can start seizing opportunities and start your own company from 2021.

The year has provided us all with many reasons to adapt in order to continue with our lives as best as possible. It has been a testing time to say the least, yet despite this, we have been able to witness the spirit of invention take hold like never before. With this in mind, we have selected our Top 20 Innovations for 2020, all of which have contributed to shifting the future of food and drink.

Carbon Negative Vodka – Air Co.

Avoca-Dough – M&S

AI Controlled Insect Farm – Better Origin x1

Algae at Home with the BioBombola – EcoLogicStudio

Scottish Blackthorn Sea Salt – Blackthorn Sea Salt

Liquid Egg – Cracked

100% Plastic Free Spirits Bottle – Diageo

Spectacular Science – Dr Oetker

24/7 Farm Shop Vending Machines

Climate Positive Burgers – Ground

Ice Cream Cakes – Ruby Ices

Kefir Salad Dressing – Trader Joe’s

Green Tea as a Natural Preservative – Loveblock Wines

Bee-Free Honey – MeliBio Inc

Pumpkin Bagels – The Bagel Nook

Protein and Fibre Enriched Vegetable Rice – RightRice

Climate Friendly Protein – Solar Foods

Cold Brew Black Tea – Trader Joe’s

Vegetable Charcuterie – The Ethicurean

On The Pass – Philip Warren Butchers

To find out about ‘shifting the future of food & drink’ and to join the TFP community visit www.thefoodpeople.co.uk.

Los Angeles-based vegan startup Grounded Foods began making its plant-based cheeses out of non-GMO hemp seeds and “ugly” cauliflowers last year. Now, the food tech is set to add three more products to its cheese offerings and is racing against coronavirus-related delays to bring its cruelty-free, food waste-fighting and vegan-friendly cheeses to consumers.

What makes the startup unique? Unlike many other plant-based cheese brands that use nuts as its base, Grounded Foods’ vegan cheeses are free from nuts, soy and gluten, and use hemp seeds and imperfect cauliflowers that would otherwise go to waste instead. The three new products that are slated to launch in early 2021 include Marinated Hemp Seed Goat Cheese, Hemp Seed Cream Cheese and Cheese-free Cheese Sauce.

The news comes on the heels of the young startup’s successful US$1.74 million seed funding this summer, which saw the company attract big alternative protein investment names like Stray Dog Capital and Veg Invest Trust, to kick start full-scale production, grow its shipping capabilities and ramp up distribution.

We had the opportunity to chat to co-founder and CEO of Grounded Foods Veronica Fil to ask her more about the upcoming launch and her story behind the startup- below the full interview.

GQ: Tell us more about where you will be launching the products. Are they going to be retailed or rolled out via foodservice? 

VF: We’re launching direct-to-consumer. It was meant to happen in November, but like many startups, we’ve been massively constrained by covid delays – for instance, waiting for our equipment to arrive and be cleared through customs. Everything is progressing nicely, it’s just happening way slower than I think it would have prior to 2020! At this stage, I think a late January or early February launch will be more likely. As soon as the products are rolling off the line, we’ll open up online sales and will be shipping nationally throughout the U.S., and then retail sales will follow soon after that. 

GQ: Let’s go back to your story. Where are you from and how did you start the brand with Shaun Quade? 

VF: We’re both from Melbourne, Australia. Shaun and I met on a dating app several years ago after we noticed we were a 99% match. The algorithm is clearly pretty accurate, because we immediately went into business together and got married after that!

GQ: How big is your team and where in California do you produce your cheeses?

VF: Our core team is made up of five people, including myself and Shaun. We’re now manufacturing the products at a plant-based facility, around an hour away from us in Los Angeles.

GQ: How do you source your “ugly” cauliflowers to make your vegan cheese?

We’re passionate about using local, sustainable ingredients, and for us, that means utilising imperfect produce – such as the cauliflower that can’t be sold to supermarkets. 90% of U.S. cauliflower is grown in California, which is one of the reasons why we’re here! We’re always on the lookout for local suppliers and farmers to work with, and we’re still pretty new to the States so building those relationships has been a huge priority for us.

GQ: Are there any plans to fundraise at this stage?

VF: We’re not actively fundraising at the moment, but we’ll probably look at raising again in the first half of 2021.

GQ: What’s your ultimate mission? What keeps you going on the hard days?

VF: Our ultimate mission is to genuinely shift consumer behaviour in a meaningful way – by creating products that are so novel and delicious and accessible, that people don’t even think about the fact that they’re not eating dairy. If the product isn’t insanely tasty, everyday people just won’t buy it as an alternative to traditional dairy.

That’s one side of the equation. But also, we want to be part of the solution – not contributing to the problem that’s occurring in our existing food system. So we’re hell bent on using environmentally resilient and local ingredients as well, not just importing whatever is cheapest or easiest.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that bee colonies are collapsing around the world due to a number of persistent threats such as global warming, pesticides and yes, murder hornets.

And while that may present a challenge to the $7 billion honey industry, the focus on honey production is itself problematic for the broader bee ecosystem, since farmed honeybees compete with wild bees for food and ultimately can hurt biodiversity.

All of which is why a Serbian bee industry executive by the name of Darko Mandich became fascinated with the idea of making honey without the bees. If this sounds crazy to you, don’t worry: Darko’s soon-to-be cofounder, Aaron Schaller, initially thought it was crazy too when they first discussed the idea.

But eventually, Schaller (a molecular scientist from the University of Cal Berkeley) saw the potential in bee-less honey and soon after, MeliBio was born. From there, the nascent startup pitched their concept to Big Idea Ventures and was accepted into the future food accelerator.

Now the company is busy developing its technology to create a honey that replicates the taste, texture and mouthful of real honey, all without bees. As Darko tells me on this podcast, MeliBio is using fermentation to essentially recreate the process through which bees convert nectar to honey. The startup hopes to have its first product on the market by late 2021.

You can listen to the full conversation with Darko Mandich by clicking play below or by subscribing to the Food Tech Show on Apple Podcasts or Spotify (and leave a review if you like the show). You can also download the episode directly to your computer by clicking here. And, as always, you can always find more food tech news and podcasts at The Spoon.

ALTERNATIVE protein company Perfect Day is setting up its research and development (R&D) centre in Singapore, as the government ramps up efforts to grow the agri-food tech sector.

The A*Star-Perfect Day Joint Lab, which is expected to be operational from April next year, will comprise roughly 10 per cent of the Perfect Day workforce “in the beginning (before) growing from there to have a more significant presence”, said Perfect Day co-founder Perumal Gandhi.

The company uses precision fermentation biotechnology techniques to develop and produce animal-free dairy proteins, casein and whey. These animal-free protein products are then used to make items such as ice cream, cheese and yoghurt.

It plans to hire and train a pool of researchers, scientists and engineers locally, with know-how for microflora protein innovation, for example, in strain development, protein assays and analysis. The lab will focus on developing analytical systems that will be critical for ensuring the accuracy, specificity and consistency of the firm’s fermentation processes and protein ingredients.

It will leverage the A*Star Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation’s expertise in analytics and taste analysis, as well as the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology’s capabilities in the study of proteins.

Agri-food tech was highlighted as a new growth sector and potential export industry by the Ministry of Trade and Industry in its Committee of Supply in 2019.

Indeed, the sector is of growing importance in Singapore’s economy as the world looks for innovative, cost-effective and sustainable solutions to increase production yield and improve food quality.

The Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant disrupted and weakened food supply chains have heightened this urgency, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing on Monday, as he witnessed the signing of a Research Collaboration Agreement between Perfect Day and A*Star.

Notably, the agri-food sector is primed for growth. Agri-food tech-focused venture capitalist AgFunder had announced a 46.8 per cent annual increase to US$16.9 billion of sector venture funding in 2018, and another 17.2 per cent annual increase to US$19.8 billion in 2019.

“Leveraging Singapore’s unique farm-to-fork ecosystem and track record for technical capabilities, quality branding and intellectual property protection, we aim to capture a significant share of the wave of economic opportunities,” said Mr Chan.

Various initiatives to grow this sector include the launch of the S$144 million Singapore Food Story R&D Programme, the Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation which provides a single touch point for industry players keen to collaborate with A*Star, and the Future REady Food Safety Hub (FRESH), a tripartite collaboration between the Singapore Food Agency, A*Star, and Nanyang Technological University.

Mr Chan added that the opening of the Agri-Food Innovation Park in the second quarter of 2021 will further catalyse innovation in the ecosystem.

“We are also building a vibrant cluster of financing firms across various stages, for example, New Protein Capital, EDB Investments, Temasek, and Proterra, as well as a base of global agri-food accelerators (example, Big Idea Ventures alternative proteins accelerator and GROW Accelerator),” said the minister. “Our eventual aim is to build up the talent pool with expertise to deploy more than S$90 million of capital.”

These are part of the country’s overall food diversification strategy which comprises stockpiling, diversification of foreign suppliers, and local food production.

On the local food production front, the focus is on both high-tech, high-density vegetable farms and alternative protein products.

“This will allow us to meet our food supply requirement without the reliance on large tracts of land that other countries might have,” he pointed out. “Overall, it will be a much more efficient and sustainable way to produce the amount of food required for the growing population, particularly in Asia, where the demand for quantity and quality will grow up correspondingly with the growth of the region.”

As the plant-based wave continues to sweep across Asia, going mainstream in everywhere from South Korea to Thailand and Japan, the Philippines is no exception to the trend. While Filipino cuisine is often described as a meat-filled melange of sweet, salty, spicy and sour flavours (hello adobo) not to mention meat-heavy (ahem, lechon), the country’s food scene is now becoming increasingly crowded with plant-based options. Here’s how the Filipino plant-based industry is heating up, particularly in the capital of Manila.

1. Burger King Philippines has added a plant-based whopper

Source: Burger King / V2food / Green Queen Media

It’s clear that mainstream Filipino consumers are looking for a healthier, cruelty-free bite when it comes to satisfying their fast food cravings, and Burger King has become the latest trend to offer just that. Last month, the burger joint added an all-new plant-based whopper to its menu in the Philippines, made with Aussie startup V2food’s soy-based high-protein patties.

Alt Protein Trends 2021 Article Banner

2. OmniPork Luncheon is now available across the country

Source: OmniFoods / Green Queen Media

Spam is considered a staple across many Asian cuisines, including in the Philippines, where the country consumes an astonishing 1.25 million kilograms of the processed ham every single year. Last month, the world’s first vegan version of the luncheon meat made by Hong Kong-based OmniFoods, landed in the country via local distributor Wholemart Philippines in a true testament of how the plant-based movement is reaching new highs.

3. Beyond Meat first made it to Filipino restaurants in 2019

Source: Beyond Meat

Food tech giant Beyond Meat’s famous plant-based burger patties made their first entry into the Filipino market back in 2019, launching at a number of restaurants in Manila. It has been so popular with customers that now, many more menus are offering the Beyond Burger, including at restaurant chain TGI Fridays and is also retailed at a number of direct-to-consume platforms.

4. WTH Foods is leading the way with its homegrown alt protein offerings

Source: WTH Foods

As the first plant-based food tech in the country, WTH Foods – also known as Worth The Health – is making waves with its plant-based sustainable meat alternatives that targets the taste buds of Filipinos. Among some of the products the band currently offers includes mung bean-based ground meat, a jackfruit-based pulled meat, we have a plant-based corned beef and hot dogs – all of them completely vegan and specifically catered to the local market.

Read: Q&A with WTH Foods co-founder Stephen Michael Co on mainstreaming plant-based in the Philippines 

5. Filipino food giant Century Pacific has developed its own vegan meat brand

Source: Shakey’s Pizza Asia Ventures

In a clear show of the plant-based shift in mainstream consumer tastes, Po family food giant Century Pacific Foods, best known for its tuna, has created its own meatless brand. Called unMeat, the brand officially launched in November this year and currently offers vegan burger patties, with more alternatives to come in the future. Shakey’s Pizza Asia Ventures, the major pizza chain owned by Century Pacific, will also be adding plant-based burgers to its menus in every outlet in the country.

6. There’s now a loads of plant-based meat options available to Filipino consumers

Source: The Good Choices

Yes, homegrown vegan brands are taking over Filipino supermarket shelves! Alongside WTH Foods, a number of companies have popped up, such as ready-made plant-based meal brand The Good Choices and vegan beef alternative The Real Happy Cow. There’s plant-based snack makers Vegetari Healthy Bites and Jack’s Produce, a specialty store offering jackfruit-based vegan sardines too.

A  plate of fluffy omelette and bread toast was put in front of Anant Sharma. He was a writer at a gaming agency and had been invited for a tasting. The dish smelled great, but he was sceptical. You see, this was no ordinary omelette. It was made entirely with plant proteins, a dream for vegans like Anant who miss the unique umami flavour of eggs. But he wondered — how close could it possibly be?

But his doubts quickly vanished with his first bite and polishing off the rest he ordered another one, this time with veggies.

“I couldn’t believe it wasn’t a real egg omelette,” Anant tells The Better India. “The texture, the taste, everything was so close. It’s amazing that we have something like this in India already.”

The main ingredient was a liquid egg substitute created by Evo foods, a new Mumbai-based startup in the emerging alternative food space in India.

It was founded by Kartik Dixit and Shraddha Bhansali in August 2019. In just one year, they have come up with a prototype that resembles a beaten egg in taste, texture, chemistry and nutrient profile. It can be used in recipes such as scrambled eggs, frittatas, and egg rolls. They have also managed to achieve a price tag comparable to that of farm-range eggs in the country.

A Chicken And Egg Problem

There are many reasons why people opt for a plant-based diet, such as health and animal welfare. For Kartik, the prime motivation was climate change.

Animal agriculture contributes to 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, making it the largest singular factor in global warming. It beats even the entire transport industry in carbon footprint.

Shocked by this data, Kartik turned vegan years ago. In 2014, after completing the Startup Leadership Program in Pune, he decided to focus on creating good vegan alternatives to animal-based foods. Alternatives that did not compromise on taste or nutrition.

He first worked on cell-based meat but soon felt that India doesn’t yet have the technical know-how for lab-cultured meat. That’s when he thought of eggs.

Eggs are amongst the most prevalent animal-based foods in India, consumed across regions and religions. The technology and talent needed for making a good egg substitute from plants were also readily available.

While he was chewing on this idea, he met Shraddha at a conference for food startups. She had recently come back from the US armed with an education in hospitality and experience in the restaurant industry. She runs her own vegan restaurant in Mumbai called Candy & Green and is a huge proponent of sustainability, nutrition and a vegetarian lifestyle.

They discussed the future of food and really hit it off. This was in December 2018. In August next year, they set up Evo.

“What I really wanted was to change people’s perspective of food,” Shraddha explains. “And I realised that the best way to reach the maximum number of people was through something like Evo. Our goal is to create high-quality, affordable protein-sources for the world.”

vegan eggs
A vegan omelette made from Evo’s egg replacer.

The Proof Is In The Omelette

Evo’s liquid egg replacer is equivalent to what you get after beating an egg. All the raw ingredients that go into it are indigenous to India.

“We take Indian legumes, extract proteins from it and use these proteins that are completely plant-based to make our product,” says Kartik.

The vegan egg, whose exact recipe is patented, is close to an actual egg in protein quality. One way of measuring this is with PDCAAS (Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score). Its values range from 0 to 1, with 1 for the highest quality protein. For example, soy protein has a PDCAA score of 0.9, but eggs and meat have perfect scores of 1 each.

With a calorific value less than that of an egg and with many added vitamins like D3 and B12, the replacer is a very healthy protein source. It is completely devoid of cholesterol and antibiotics too.

According to the founders, the taste was easy to achieve with added flavours, but guaranteeing the texture of the cooked product was the biggest challenge. And they are constantly trying to improve on it.

Shelf stability is another difficult aspect they are working on, which would in turn solve many logistical limitations. They are also trying to make the egg substitute suitable for baking as the current version is ideal for pan recipes only.

The response from early tasters like Anant and customers at Shraddha’s restaurant has been overwhelmingly positive. There is a bigger tasting session scheduled for January

“It’s essentially like software development. We are continuously iterating on the product. We’ll release an alpha version soon. Based on more feedback, we’ll do a beta and then a full-scale version,” says Kartik.

Vegan eggs
Shraddha Bhansali and Kartik Dixit

Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth is

Evo is currently a team of six, including the two founders and four food scientists and engineers.

They have grown in leaps and bounds partly because of the early funding they raised from the likes of Big Idea Ventures and Ryan Bethencourt — leaders in the alternative food and protein space.

Speaking of their future plans, Kartik says, “Our focus will be fully on eggs, even in the near future. It’s a $200 billion market worldwide, so there’s enough space to make amazing egg products and improve them.”

They have partnered with more than 25 restaurant brands to include Evo as a vegan option on their menus, but their ultimate goal is to put it in the hands of the consumers. If things go according to plan, you should be able to buy it off of supermarket shelves, in 300 ml and 600 ml bottles, within a few months.

By Avery Parkinson

 

As promising as cellular agriculture may be for making our food production system more environmentally sustainable, ethical and healthy, the field is definitely not without its challenges.

The main challenge this technology faces is the cost — the world’s first cultured burger, which was produced by Dutch scientist Mark Post and his lab in 2013, cost about $330,000.

It currently costs around $50,000 to produce one pound of meat in vitro, and that’s mostly because of the culture media. Fetal Bovine Serum (FBS), which is probably the most important ingredient, can cost up to $1000 per litre!

 

 

Additionally, FBS comes from cow fetuses. Due to the (very painful) way it is sourced, it does not align with the ethical intent of cellular agriculture — to be unreliant on animals. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has devised a comprehensive list of plant-based substitutes for FBS– however, scientists maintain that fetal bovine serum is still far more effective than the proposed alternatives.

Why?

Besides the essential nutrients, most mammalian cells require things called “growth factors” to grow. In an animal, these growth factors are supplied by the animal’s blood, so using FBS is an intuitive way to conveniently source them all.

If we want to eliminate the role of the animal entirely, our current alternative is recombinant protein production which involves synthesizing each growth factor individually. This is usually very expensive.

But luckily, researchers are starting to demonstrate the effectiveness of “serum-free culture media” (media that doesn’t include animal byproducts) and are also considering how to produce them cheaply.

Continuing in this vein, as much as cellular agriculture aims to be unreliant on animals, since it by definition entails culturing a set of animal cells, we can not be completely animal independent. We can, however, limit the number of cells that we do directly take from the animal.

Ideally, we could improve the technology to the point where one group of cells produces all the meat we ever need! This requires sustaining one cell line indefinitely. Unfortunately, this is impossible because of the Hayflick limit, which implies that cells can not replicate forever. Satellite stem cells, which are just a specific variation of stem cells, can duplicate at most 40 times.

 

One way we can get around this is by creating stem cells called Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs). These cells are created by taking a normal specialized cell and editing its DNA so that it returns to being a stem cell — kind of like reverse engineering.

On the end of a DNA strand, there is a protective telomere cap. When our cells divide, these telomere caps get shorter and shorter until they are nonexistent and the cell becomes senescent cells — which for our purposes, basically renders them useless. When we reverse engineer our cells, we can make the telomere long enough so that it exceeds the Hayflick Limit and our cells are effectively immortal!

Beyond the actual technical challenges of cellular agriculture, there are also societal ones that may prevent finished products from reaching consumers.

Firstly, few countries actually have any set guidelines and regulations which govern the production and selling of cultured meat– although recently, the USDA and FDA announced a joint responsibility for cellular agriculture products with each organization overseeing part of the process. The Good Food Institute is assisting various governments in coming up with their own policies that can support the industry. For starters, many existing laws are somewhat problematic. For instance, when used in marketing, terms such as “meat” and “meat products” specifically refer to animal slaughter.

Then there’s public acceptance. As the technology is quite new and unfamiliar to people, it will take some getting used to in order for consumers to feel comfortable enough to want to buy it. Like with anything, this can be done through education and awareness. Organizations like CellAgri and Cell Based News aim to do this by keeping people up to date with what’s going on in the industry.

Once these challenges are overcome, we may one day see cultured animal products available at the grocery store. Luckily, there are a whole bunch of startups, non for profits, and research institutions working on solving them!

By Avery Parkinson

Cellular agriculture  is the science of creating animal products without the animal. There are two main kinds of cellular agriculture: “cellular agriculture” which is concerned with making products containing once living cells (like meat and leather)

and “acellular agriculture” which is about creating animal derived products (like cheese and milk).

For now, we’re going to focus on cellular agriculture (that is, not acellular agriculture). When we produce meat using cellular agriculture, we are said to be “culturing it in vitro”. This is done in three main steps.

  1. Stem cells are extracted from the animal. Stem cells have the potential to become many or all of the different types of cells found in an animal which makes them ideal for creating the different parts of meat. In the case of a primary cultureadult stem cells are taken from the reserves of an animal’s specialized tissues — tissues that already have a specific purpose (like skin or muscle) — and are called progenitors. In the case of secondary cultures, cells might be cryopreserved (frozen) from previous experiments.
  2. Stem cells are immersed in a culture medium and proliferate. A culture medium is a substance containing everything cells need to grow like carbohydrates, fats, amino acids, salts and vitamins. As these molecules diffuse into the cells, they grow and eventually split into two smaller genetically identical cells. In this way, our population of stem cells increases exponentially, or “proliferates”.
  3. Stem cells are put into a bioreactor and differentiate. Bioreactors are machines which expose the cells to a variety of different environmental cues — for instance, electrical stimulation and mechanical contractions. This encourages the cells to differentiate into the types of specialized cells we get in meat (like muscle, fat… etc). These myoblasts then fuse to form multi nucleated myofibers— i.e. tissue.

And bam, we have perfect steak…well, not quite.

This process would be just about where everything ends for unstructured meat, but not for structured meat. Unstructured meat is, as it sounds, meat that doesn’t have a real structure (like ground beef). Structured meat, on the other hand, is meat that has a specific composition of cells — it’s not just the type of cells that characterize it, but the arrangement, too (like steak).

Getting a particular arrangement is not reliable by just allowing the cells to float around in the bioreactor and crossing our fingers. So, we need something called a scaffold. A scaffold is a mold which the cells grow in and around to form the specific shape and structure of the meat. The proliferated cells are usually seeded onto the scaffold (i.e. attached to it) and then put inside the bioreactor.

Some popular scaffolding materials include decellularized plant tissue, chitosan from fungi or recombinant collagen. Researchers at the University of Ottawa and University of Western Australia have been looking into the benefits and downsides of each type, and found the following:

Decellularized plant tissue is abundant and has a great structure and texture. However, it lacks many of the growth cues deemed vital for growing mammalian cells.

 

Chitosan is abundant, and has antibacterial properties. It can also be blended easily with other polymers which suggests that it could easily be tailored to what a scientist is trying to grow. However, in the presence of lysozymes (a naturally occurring enzyme), chitosan will start to break down in unpredictable ways.

Recombinant collagen is highly biocompatible but is hard to produce and source.

All of these scaffold variations are favoured by researchers because of their commonality: they can be produced by plants or fungus, and are hence unreliant on animals.

So there, now we have our perfect steak. Well again…there’s more.

We may have a nicely structured cut of meat, but now we have a scaffold in it. Scientists have proposed using edible scaffolds, but since the whole idea behind the cultured meat is to perfectly replicate meat, scientists are leaning towards figuring out a way to make biodegradable scaffolds. But this in itself introduces some new issues, most notably the rate of decay. If our scaffold literally disappears while the meat is growing on it, it kind of defeats the purpose.

Now, of course, this entire process is easier said than done. Key challenges include the cost of the culture media, media composition, finding biomaterials that are compatible for scaffolding, commercial regulations and of course, public perception. But, there are a number of startups working to overcome these obstacles so that hopefully, the technology will become more mainstream.

By Patrick Woloveck

In today’s rapidly changing startup capital landscape, it is challenging for early stage entrepreneurs to structure the most efficient capital stack. Since I started focusing my career on alternative capital in 2018, it has been really interesting to see the conversation change about raising capital. As an (admittedly biased) champion for non-dilutive capital, I thought it would be valuable to share my experience. While not top of mind for many founders, these options can be leveraged to build your food startup alongside venture capital. To cover a broader spectrum, I also tapped into my network to leverage experts in their respective niches. Hopefully, this can serve as a small resource that yields the most money in your pocket after that BIG EXIT…

Invoice Factoring

My company, VendorTerm, provides non-dilutive growth capital to startups. Traditionally, our model is defined as invoice factoring. If you have invoiced a big retailer for payment due in 60 days, VendorTerm will provide you a high percentage of the value of that invoice in cash upfront in return for receiving that total invoice payment in 60 days. We make money on the spread between. Managed properly, high-margin startups can ride this model all the way to exit without raising equity.

 – Pros: Non-dilutive, quick, flexible, no commitments, scalable

 – Cons: High cost of capital compared to a traditional loan

 – Dilution: 0%

 – My takeaway: The pushback against factoring is around comparing our cost to the APR of a term loan. That’s not an apples to apples comparison, as invoice factoring vs. term loans have vastly different risk profiles. Mainly, banks who offer loans have forms of recourse in the form of collateral, covenants, warrants, etc. The majority of factoring deals are non-recourse, meaning we hold all the risk in the event of default. This risk is priced accordingly, hence the wide discrepancy in cost of capital. Factoring serves more as an “a la carte” option on your capital menu which, in my experience, works well for startups who also like to be nimble. There is an opportunity cost to all financial decisions and ultimately the CEO makes the most fiduciary responsible decision for shareholders. Businesses with enterprise contracts, orders, and invoices that proactively manage cash by factoring receivables will reap the rewards many multiples over when it comes time to exit.

PO Finance

As you scale, your rocket ship food startup will receive purchase orders from big retailers prior to you ultimately invoicing them. You likely will not have ample inventory on hand, so you’ll need capital to pay suppliers in order to meet this new demand. Enter PO Financing. On the surface level, the deal is structured similarly to a factoring deal; however, due to increased supply chain risks, the terms are less straightforward.

 – Pros: Still faster than going to the bank. Risk is passed along to the PO Finance provider.

 – Cons: Your customers will be paying the PO Finance company directly

 – Dilution: 0%

 – My takeaway: This is a great short term solution. I would recommend reaching out to multiple firms, familiarizing yourself with the market, and having the best partner lined up before receiving the first purchase order from the big retailer. Many product focused startups combine both PO Finance & Invoice Factoring to combat cash flow hurdles while scaling.

Working Capital Loan

“A working capital line of credit is beneficial because it allows for the funds to be used for short term capital needs to help with the day-to-day cash flow of the business. They are a good way to fill seasonal or unpredictable gaps in the cash flow of business operations to cover payroll, miscellaneous maintenance, fill gaps between receivables, etc.”

– Brad Johnson / Director, Business Banking / First Republic Bank

When is a working capital loan applicable? All banks are going to have different standards and requirements, but net income will be much more important here than top line revenue. A good benchmark for the loan size is ~10% of net income, but it could be greater depending on the lender.

 – Pros: There is flexibility with a line of credit so you are only drawing funds on an as needed basis, and you are only paying interest while the funds are outstanding. While it is easier to get working capital lines from non-bank lenders, there will almost always be higher closing fees and interest rates.

 – Cons: Banks will typically be much more conservative with their lending standards, so for a startup, a bank will typically like to see 2-3 years at a minimum of consistent cash flow, and often will require a personal guarantee on the line of credit. Working capital lines can also fall short of your capital needs if you are looking for debt for long term accelerated growth.

 – Dilution: 0%

 – My takeaway: If you can get it, take it. Brad does a great job summarizing the tradeoffs of securing capital from a non-bank vs. traditional bank lender. IMO, this variety in options ultimately creates a win/win for the startup ecosystem. As lenders can optimize economics based on specific company niches and verticals, founders reap the rewards instead of a one size fits all capital product.

Venture Debt: 

“Venture Debt is non-dilutive financing that companies can take on outside of raising equity. It gives you the ability to top off additional capital without being dilutive in order to extend runway, or can be an insurance policy when you don’t really need the capital.”

-Ruslan Sergeyev SVP, Venture Lending PacWest

We also interviewed Ruslan last year about when and why founders should optimally take on Venture Debt.

 – Pros: Lots of variations available, not one size fits all

 – Cons: Typically only offered on top of an equity round. Later stage. Minor dilution. More financial covenants depending on terms.

 – Dilution: <5%

 – My takeaway: The big takeaway that Ruslan consistently stressed was timing– the best time to consider Venture Debt is probably when you don’t need it. This is a principle that gets lost in the shuffle of the busy everyday life that comes with running a company. Just think about how many companies this year wish they had taken that extra capital insurance policy. Similar to my thoughts on PO Financing– I highly recommend reaching out to several firms in the market to familiarize yourself with the landscape. Some of the main players in this space include PacWest, SVB, and Signature Bank among others.

In summary, hindsight is 2020. The year is also 2020, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to plan for the unexpected. Given the tremendous amount of uncertainty in the days, months, and year ahead, it is your job as a founder to be well versed in all the capital options available to you.

Tell us about yourself! What’s your origin story?

I was born in Brooklyn, New York and I come from generations of artists, businessmen & chefs. By the time I was 4 years old, I already had professional TV & stage credits as a child actor.

Both sides of my grandparents owned restaurants, supermarkets, delis, and commissary facilities. So, I found myself always around food & business. Growing up in South Brooklyn was an education in itself. Living in the toughest neighborhood in the 1970’s led me into the boxing ring at the age of 13. I worked various jobs in and out of food and was inspired by the many different cultures & foods found in my neighborhood. At IBM, I invented the Dip Module counting scale and was rewarded generously for my invention. After that, I headed back into the kitchen and finally knew it was my calling to become a chef. I spent over 16 years in the hotel industry and then entered the world of food manufacturing, where I became recognized as an expert.

 

What was the shift into manufacturing like?

It was a good move for me because I had a skill set many did not have in the manufacturing world.

My rare skill set allowed me to climb to the top of the industry and allowed me to start my own company. Realizing there was a need for services in the co-packing world, my company Ricardo Food Group was formed to fill a void in the co-manufacturing, co-packing and private label manufacturing marketplaces. By providing focused solutions, quality, efficiency, and the appropriate direction to our clients, Ricardo Food Group became one of the first advisory consulting firms to specialize in the co-manufacturing, co-packing & private label through the eyes of manufacturing experts.

 

What are some causes you are passionate about?

I am a proud board member of the non-profit Luv Michael Bakery founded by Doctor Lisa A. Liberatore; this bakery is committed to creating and providing meaningful culinary jobs to the autistic population. We train, educate, and employ individuals on the autism spectrum at Luv Michael, and the profits from Luv Michael aid in the growth of our business and allow us to develop new training modules for our employees. We have a great team – Kim Diaz heads Operations and Master Chef Nickie oversees bakery production. It’s a joy for me whenever I get a chance to work with everyone in the kitchen there; we have a lot of fun for a good cause.

 

What is your favorite part of running your own company and helping entrepreneurs create their own products?

 My favorite part is not taking crap from anyone. I only want to work with people who are serious and mean business. We have no time for games. When I go to sleep, I want to wake up happy to continue working on your business. If I cannot feel that, then we should reconsider our working relationship. There is a greater sense of pride and independence when you are in business. It’s a great accomplishment to say “these are my companies” and  “these are my business partners” and so on.

 

Where do you see the alternative protein space going in the next 10 years? What changes are occurring in the food industry?

In 10 years, every single restaurant, food establishment, food service company, airline, catering facility, and franchise will have at least 35 % to 40 % plant-based products in their portfolio. Even an ice cream truck coming down a city street will have at least 35 % of their options be plant-based. Supermarkets and convenience stores will hit it big with whole aisles dedicated to plant-based lines. In 25 years, it will not be a choice; it will be your only option in many places.

 

What are some cool trends and new opportunities you have noticed through your work? 

The ability to test your brand quickly through online platforms is incredibly helpful and everyone should utilize this format. You can find out so much so fast about your product testing online before you go into CPG, which gives you many new opportunities. If you create a costing sales history chart and monitor the activities just from a few online platforms selling your product line, you can find out important metrics that will help make your CPG line successful. This method will teach you the do’s & don’ts for your product and business.

 

What are you reading these days? 

I have read hundreds of cookbooks over the years, but what I truly enjoy reading are screenplays. It’s one thing to see the movie, but when you read the script it was made from, it’s a whole other experience and way to see it. Right now, I am reading Tales of Manhattan, which was written in 1941 and made into a film in 1942. It’s a must-see movie and I recommend it to all entrepreneurs. It’s a great lesson about people and how we misjudge each other.

 

Any advice or words of wisdom for early stage entrepreneurs?

  1. Stop procrastinating, get up, and make it happen. I had no business plan, money, or clue in the world how to start, but I jumped right into it and figured it out as I went along.
  2. Your friends and family can be your worst critics. Dismiss the haters and dream crushers.  Stop wasting time worrying about what others think.
  3. Don’t sit around waiting for answers. I would send out 2000 personalized emails a week just to get back 2 or 3 replies. Networking is about the numbers and being proactive.
  4. Stop asking for permission with a question mark, because it is a sign of weakness.

 

Bad  Example: Is it alright if I call you? You are giving the customer an out with the question mark (?) and asking for permission.

Good ExampleJohn, I am setting up calls for next Wednesday & Thursday– let me know which day works for you. This statement (instead of a question) conveys a sign of power, confidence, and the will to work with them. So, don’t ask; you must learn to make customers feel reassured you are a sure thing in a polite format.

 

  1. Relationships, relationships, and relationships; you must master building relationships in order to build a successful company.

 

Being an entrepreneur is not a job, it’s a way of life. Your many sacrifices will eventually pay off years later. Learn everything you can about what you are doing, the product, and the industry. Don’t stop learning about your competitors and customers. Focus on building relationships. Don’t connect with people in hopes of using them or getting something from them. Do not let others intimidate you; many will try to do it. Be strong, and remember that you are smart and have power already. Remember the three E’s:

  • Extraordinary – stand out by being unusual and remarkable.
  • Eunoia – strengthen your skills to be a great communicator and speaker
  • Embody – establish a concrete and visible form to your ideas, set quality feelings and be competitive in spirit.

 

 

 

 

 

Ricardo Cordero, President & CEO of Ricardo Food Group, has more than 40 years’ experience in all aspects of bakery, food, beverage products and processes. He is a renowned expert in Co-Manufacturing, Co-Packing & Private Label, Former Executive Chef, Former Manufacturing methodology process expert and current Manufacturing Specialist. His hobbies include antique camera collecting and he is considered by many Chefs and food-service professionals as an outstanding Pizza Connoisseur and Innovator.

Ricardo Food Group is a Multi-Company Holding sourcing company for all your co-packing & private label needs. We have formed alliances with 475 US-based food, beverage & bakery manufacturing facilities. Ricardo Food Group is an advisory firm made up of Manufacturing & Production Expert Consultants in the food, bakery and beverage industry. Serving as consultants to businesses regarding partnerships, investors, mergers, performance base equity and acquisitions, leveraged and management buyouts, debt restructuring, capital firm investments, entrepreneur’s investment, and commercial banking investments.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/ricardo-cordero-832a19a4/                                                        www.ricardofoodgroup.com

Anjali Agarwal

 

The world reckoned with COVID-19 over the last several months as lockdowns were instituted, and as people globally experienced drastic changes to their daily lives, consumers’ spending habits changed in stride. Among these changes include an increase in spending on groceries, while spending on other categories, such as entertainment and travel, naturally decreased. Not only has spending on groceries increased overall, but specific food categories have seen remarkable e-commerce growth as consumers stock up their pantries with shelf-stable items. Of the top 15 product categories that saw the highest e-commerce growth in the year since March 2019, one-third are food items, which include soups, rice and dried grains, and packaged foods. In terms of habits, the pandemic has certainly changed the way we think about, engage with, and prepare our snacks and meals, according to the 2020 Food and Health Survey. This survey was conducted during a week in April 2020 and found that over 80% of respondents changed their eating habits due to the pandemic. The most common change, by far, is that people are cooking more than before, as well as snacking far more than before.

 

Shift Towards Ethical and Sustainable Eating

So, how exactly have our diets changed temporarily, if not permanently? Here at Big Idea Ventures, we are particularly curious about the increased interest in and consumption of plant-based and alternative protein products. In fact, some experts believe that the pandemic has accelerated growth in the adoption of vegan diets. As such, it’s no surprise that two of the largest companies in the alternative protein space have performed well during the pandemic – Impossible Foods increased its retail and supermarket presence from 200 stores in January of this year to over 3,000 by May, and Beyond Meat has experienced a strong financial performance, with revenues up 141% from the previous year.

According to the Food and Health Survey conducted in April 2020, 28% of consumers had increased their consumption of plant-based proteins and 24% had increased their intake of plant-based dairy at that point in time, as compared to a year ago. Interestingly, individuals who were following a diet or were under the age of 35 were more likely to have increased their consumption of either plant-based proteins or dairy this past year. This highlights an interesting opportunity for companies in this space to develop products for and target individuals that follow diets, in order to achieve greater traction and increase customer loyalty.

 

What’s Driving the Increased Interest in Plant-Based Protein?

Several reasons explain why we’re seeing shifts in consumption habits towards a greater intake of plant-based protein, including global food supply chain inefficiencies and a newfound desire for consumers to do something altruistic in times of significant global stress and uncertainty. The coronavirus originated from animals, and that, too, has been a driver for greater consumer awareness regarding meat alternatives. Meat shortages across the country, as well as the negative health impact on employees at crowded meat processing facilities, have also inspired consumers to search for alternatives. And finally, the environmental effects of the pandemic, which include the largest drop in greenhouse gas emissions in history, continue to highlight and reinforce the meat industry’s notoriously high environmental cost. These reasons will drive consumers’ decisions to continue or discontinue the changes in diet made during the pandemic, and as such, it remains to be seen whether the changes in diet brought upon by the health crisis will last.

 

Negative Impacts of COVID-19 on Plant-Based Protein

While there’s been a greater interest in plant-based products over the last several months, there are still several challenges the industry must overcome if these products are to become a staple in people’s kitchens. First, the demand for traditional meat remains exceedingly high, even during the current health crisis. Additionally, plant-based alternatives typically have a higher price point than traditional meat, and while consumers are currently spending more on groceries than they normally would according to a recent McKinsey study, it remains to be seen whether this pattern will continue post-pandemic, especially if and when people return to their normal spending levels for discretionary, non-essential items as well.

Furthermore, prior to the pandemic, restaurants were expected to play a central role in bringing plant-based proteins to consumers nationally, following the increasing popularity of meat-free options when dining out. The National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Industry 2030 report found through its national survey of restaurant experts that plant-based proteins would be the second most important trend in the restaurant industry over the next ten years. The pandemic, however, has devastated the restaurant industry. A recent report by Yelp found that of all the restaurants that have closed due to COVID-19, 60% have closed permanently. Whether these closures were a direct result of the pandemic or due to larger trends in an exceedingly tough industry, the restaurant industry has faced one of its more significant setbacks. This, in turn, limits plant-based companies’ ability to expand and increase consumer awareness through restaurant channels.

For the time being, however, the FDA has loosened food labeling guidelines that now allow restaurants to sell their excess inventory directly to consumers, which has been a much-needed additional revenue stream for many restaurants and a way to minimize food waste. For instance, large plant-based companies like Impossible Foods have been able to see their restaurant partners successfully sell bulk quantities of their flagship plant-based protein directly to consumers. However, this policy is in effect for the duration of the public health crisis, and as such is not a long-term solution for plant-based companies looking to easily reach consumers through restaurants.

     Moving into the post-pandemic world, plant-based and alternative protein companies will likely need to reevaluate and rethink fundamental aspects of their business, including their understanding of their target consumers, the sustainability of their supply chain, and the optimal channels through which they hope to reach the maximum number of consumers.

 

 

Further reading: 

  1. https://www.visualcapitalist.com/shoppers-buying-online-ecommerce-covid-19/
  2. https://foodinsight.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/IFIC-Food-and-Health-Survey-2020.pdf
  3. https://modernrestaurantmanagement.com/covid-19-is-the-opportunity-plant-based-alternatives-have-waited-for/
  4. https://www.forbes.com/sites/abigailabesamis/2020/06/10/new-survey-reveals-covid-19s-impact-on-american-food-habits/#6aad18316a77
  5. https://www.plantbasednews.org/culture/-covid-19-accelerating-vegan-trend-top-data-firm
  6. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/more-people-eating-plant-based-protein#Why-the-increased-interest-in-plant-based-protein?
  7. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-06-05/half-of-americans-want-meat-free-options-after-industry-s-crisis?sref=Hhue1scO
  8. https://www.foodnavigator.com/Article/2019/10/17/Plant-based-boom-faces-sustainability-and-nutrition-challenges
  9. https://www.restaurant.org/articles/news/plant-based-protein-is-here-to-stay
  10. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/a-global-view-of-how-consumer-behavior-is-changing-amid-covid-19#
  11. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200709141538.htm
  12. https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/25/business/restaurants-reopen-coronavirus-shutdown-trnd/index.html
  13. https://www.fda.gov/media/136469/download
  14. https://impossiblefoods.com/announcements/impossible-foods-collaborates-with-cheetah-to-adapt-to-covid-19/

Tell us about yourself! What’s your origin story?

I am a first generation American from New York City. Born to working class parents from the Caribbean islands of Grenada and Jamaica, I was raised with a strong work ethic and an emphasis on education. At the age of 13, I was very fortunate to get recruited to attend Trinity School on Manhattan’s Upper West Side by a non-profit called the Oliver Scholars Program which matches high-achieving Black and Latino students with some of the nation’s leading private schools.

My Trinity experience was a foundational one. Not only did I learn to think outside the box in deeply critical and thoughtful ways, but it was there that I first came face to face with glaring inequities as a function of race and class, traversing an elite K-12 institution — now in its fourth century — by day, and shuttling back to my insular, predominantly black, working class Brooklyn neighborhood by night. It was at Trinity that I began grappling with the concept of food democratization, recognizing the link between nutrition and public health and beginning to question the drivers that lead to disparate outcomes both in the US and globally.

I graduated from Trinity School in 2001 and headed off to Dartmouth College, graduating in 2005. I then proceeded straight to law school at Cornell, graduating in 2008.

Today, I am Special Counsel at global law firm Foley & Lardner LLP, resident in the Firm’s Washington DC office. Foley is a leading US-based law firm with over 1,100 lawyers practicing in virtually all areas of law. My practice focuses on Food & Drug Law with an emphasis on food technology. I counsel companies through every stage of the production and distribution lifecycle – from premarket clearance through manufacturing, advertising, labeling, recalls and unanticipated regulatory scrutiny. I have authored and co-authored a number of timely articles on trending legal issues and I’ve been quoted by The Wall Street JournalForbes, and Food Navigator-USA, among other leading publications.

How did you get involved in the food space?

I remember the first time I stepped into a supermarket on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, near Trinity School. The fresh fruit, meat and vegetable offerings were staggering in comparison to my neighborhood grocery in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. At the time (the late 1990s), gentrification hadn’t yet arrived in my Brooklyn neighborhood. And I didn’t know it growing up — but I lived in a food desert. Healthy food offerings came few and far between. At the same time, I also became aware of disparate healthcare outcomes as a function of race and class.

Through a combination of coursework and internships, I explored the connection between these issues from an academic standpoint and became eager to affect real change. After completing a public policy internship examining these issues during my time at Dartmouth, I decided to attend law school.

Because issues of social justice and public health have guided my career decisions for as long as I can remember, in 2009, I seized the opportunity to join the USDA at its headquarters in Washington DC to get an insider’s perspective on how the US regulates food and protects the public health. There, I worked on a range of issues, including — but not limited to — food safety, labeling, organic standards and biotech issues.

As a regulator, I became intimately aware of new food technologies on the horizon. Five years later, I decided to enter private practice to learn more from the other side of the table, leveraging my years of experience from the USDA. Since 2014, I’ve advised both FDA and USDA-regulated entities on a range of complex and emerging food and drug regulatory issues. And, as I’ve built my practice, I’ve focused on start-ups and household brands around the world that are mission-driven to sustainably produce foods to meet the earth’s rising population and to reduce inequities in who gets wholesome, nutritious food thereby leading to a better-fed, healthier society. In this way, I’ve been fortunate to align my personal passion with the regulatory work I do as a lawyer every day.

What are some causes you’re passionate about?

I care deeply about education and about diversity.

Education is the pillar of success on which my Caribbean immigrant family stands and has led me to where I am today. I’ve called Washington DC home for the past 11 years and during this time, I’ve mentored at-risk youth in some of the city’s most troubled neighborhoods. Today, I also serve on the Board of Trustees of the Harmony DC Public Charter School which focuses on STEM and targets Washington DC’s underserved youth.

Embracing diversity is, of course, key to success. In my role as a lawyer at a top US law firm, I work hard to help recruit black and other diverse lawyers to the food and drug field through both formal and informal outreach. Throughout my career it has proven true time and again that the best decision-making stems from teams that combine unique perspectives as a function of experiences, viewpoints, and backgrounds.

What is your favourite part of being in the legal sector?

I enjoy the people, the energy and the versatility that comes with being a regulatory lawyer. In my role as counsel, I engage with fresh-faced, high energy, brilliant scientists and policy experts in the US and around the world. Applying my knowledge of the US food regulatory framework to evolving, cutting edge technologies continuously pushes me to think outside the box.

For me, the great fun of my work is diving into the science behind the products and services my clients are developing and offering — products and services that make the world tick, and that will change the world for the better. I feel fortunate to have landed where I am today.

Where do you think regulation in the alternative protein and cell based spaces is going? What should we be aware of?

I think US regulators are making great strides in accommodating new technologies into existing frameworks. In the case of cell-based meat, for example, US regulators have moved at a record pace — holding public meetings, issuing a formal agreement outlining oversight and creating interagency working groups focused on developing the details of how the FDA and USDA will oversee this sector. It’s been remarkable to see, and I feel fortunate to be part of the evolving regulatory conversation.

Where do you see the alternative protein space going in the next 10 years? What changes are occurring in the food industry?

With reports that plant-based meats will experience a compounded annual growth rate of 28%, making it an $85 billion market in 10 years, all indications are that alternative protein — as a whole — is set for continued success. Increasingly, we’re seeing these technologies successfully pass FDA muster and we’re seeing nations around the world like China and Japan eagerly diving in to facilitate the commercialization of new technologies.

What are some cool trends and new opportunities you’ve noticed through your work? (Can be across many other industries.)

From where I sit, it has been fascinating to witness the formation of a truly global movement around the future of food. Food tech accelerators like Big Idea Ventures are leading the charge, with cohorts in New York and Singapore. In this regard, I feel fortunate to serve as a mentor to Big Idea Ventures.

The information sharing across continents will certainly serve to facilitate the increasingly rapid commercialization of new food technologies. Just last month, I gave a talk to a Japanese cohort of food tech stakeholders at Tama University’s Center for Rule-Making Strategy. In presenting and discussing the US regulatory perspective, I also obtained insight into Japan’s current thinking on the regulatory front. The evolving global regulatory conversation which necessarily meshes science and law will ideally result in regulatory frameworks across the world that set similarly stringent but not onerous rules and policy.

What are you reading these days? 

Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell and The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Tipping Point explores the science behind viral trends in business, marketing, and human behavior, and The Water Dancer speaks to some of the underlying issues that have recently been laid bare across the US as we confront systemic inequities, as a function of race, in American society. Next up on my list is Together by Vivek H. Murthy, MD.

Any advice or words of wisdom for early stage entrepreneurs?

Assemble the right team, stay organized, ask the right questions and always bring integrity to your work. As an entrepreneurial young lawyer myself — building out a growing Food & Drug practice — I abide by this very advice.

Early stage entrepreneurs would also do well to incorporate regulatory considerations into their product development strategy early and often. Doing so will serve to streamline commercialization efforts down the road.

Brian P. Sylvester is Special Counsel at Foley & Lardner LLP where he focuses his practice on Food & Drug Law.  Brian guides companies through every stage of the production and distribution lifecycle – from premarket clearance through manufacturing, advertising, labeling, recalls and unanticipated regulatory scrutiny. He has authored and co-authored a number of timely articles on trending legal issues and has been quoted by The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and Food Navigator-USA, among other leading publications. Brian obtained his undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College and his law degree from Cornell.

You can reach Brian at bsylvester@foley.com or follow him on Twitter @food_attorney

Greg Wiseman

The marketplace and the consumer have changed – forever. 

COVID-19 has brought structural changes to where we eat, what we eat, and who we eat it with. For those entrepreneurs that are able to see into the future of these impacts, this is a great time to bring innovation to the marketplace.

For example, many people used to take a protein bar with them to work for an afternoon snack. If they’re working from home, wouldn’t they rather have something else instead of a bar?  Wouldn’t they like something less processed but still convenient that they can grab and enjoy?

Along with consumer marketplace changes, there have also been changes to the investment strategies of venture capitalists and private equity investors. Investors are now more cautious, so early stage companies will face a more rigorous due diligence process. These investment firms still have capital to invest, but they are now looking harder at company fundamentals.

Irene Rosenfeld, former CEO of Kraft Foods, once said: “If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.” 

The question for entrepreneurs is: What is your competitive advantage for getting funding in these times of greater due diligence scrutiny?

Many food and beverage entrepreneurs come from non-technical backgrounds such as culinary or marketing. These types of backgrounds are excellent because these entrepreneurs are typically very creative in identifying and addressing unmet consumer needs. However, having a strong consumer focus can leave the technical fundamentals of the company disregarded for too long. Investors today are less lenient and will no longer accept companies lacking in technical and strategic experience.

This points to a great opportunity and potentially strong competitive advantage for early stage food and beverage companies: have a strong technical basis for your company and talk about it in every networking conversation and in your pitch deck. Addressing the technical basis of your company early on will also set you up for smart growth by eliminating issues early and minimizing the risk of future problems by having structures in place to deal with unexpected technical challenges.

Some basic technical areas to develop include:

  • Purchase Interest for Your Product

Using an online survey, you can efficiently measure the “Top 2 Box Purchase Intent” of your target consumer as well as identify the key product features that will drive them to buy your product over the competition. These are the features that you should shout about in your product communication! You can also determine price elasticity and understand whether you can make a reasonable profit at the intersection of the price consumers are willing to pay and the volume of sales you can expect.

  • Optimize Consumer Liking 

Use statistically designed studies to identify what improves consumer liking and then find the predicted optimal level of ingredients/attributes that will make your product the best it can be.  Designed Optimization Experiments are much more efficient and faster than the “scatter shot” trial and error development that is often used. Combining consumer test learnings of key flavor and texture drivers and profiling by trained sensory panelists efficiently translates consumer language into actionable ingredient and formula solutions.

  • Certifications

Which certifications are important for your product and consumer? Choose wisely based on your target consumer rather than getting a bunch that don’t contribute to purchase intent. Certifications are resource intensive to get and to maintain so focus on the important ones first!

  • Optimize the Package for the Product

Your package design and graphics must be an excellent ambassador for your product and company. It’s the first thing the consumer will see on the shelf and it needs to compel them to pick it up and learn more! Beyond the graphics, the package must do an excellent job of protecting the product during distribution and helping it maintain shelf life. Finally, is it optimized for the lowest possible cost while still achieving the critical requirements above?

  • Shelf Life

Is your product formula, package and code date designed for maximum food safety and sensory quality? How did you validate the microbiological safety and the sensory attributes over shelf life?

More advanced areas can include:

  • Project Management

Are you efficiently developing and commercializing your innovation by using a project timeline with clear activities, milestones, success criteria, assigned accountability and due dates? There’s a great quote attributed to Peter Drucker that says “What gets measured gets done.” Without knowing what needs to get done and who is going to do it, things don’t get done efficiently!

  • Formula Optimization for Scale

Can the product you made on the bench be commercially manufactured at scale for distribution? How will it be made and have you assessed the risks of undesirable product defects from manufacturing?

  • Supply Chain Optimization for Scale

Are ingredients available in the quantities needed for your sales volume? If you’re using unique ingredients or ingredients made in another country, how quickly can the supply respond and grow with your success?

  • Cost Optimization

Early on, you’re likely going to have high costs due to the relatively small scale of your company. Have you reduced your costs as much as possible to maximize your margins in order to make investment from others more attractive? What are your future plans to reduce formula, packaging and processing costs without changing quality?

  1. Intellectual Property

If you’ve done some or all of the things above to develop the technical depth of your company, how are you going to protect that information? What strategies will you use and do you have the appropriate systems in place to protect it?

As just one example of how a technical area can be developed early on, consider this and see if it sounds like your company:

Many entrepreneurs put their first formula into the marketplace very quickly in order to get consumer feedback and be first to market. They’re willing to sacrifice optimization of the product for speed to market but potentially risk alienation if the consumer doesn’t like it and decides to never purchase it again. While large CPG companies can be faulted for over-testing and trying to get a product perfect before launching, there’s a happy middle ground between high quality and speed to market. A simple experimental design can efficiently predict the optimal levels of ingredients to achieve a product that consumers will love and purchase again.

All of the technical areas above can easily be addressed by leveraging people from your network with the right knowledge or by engaging a consultant with a strong technical background. The time and resources you invest early on to develop a strong technical basis for your company will set you apart from others during conversations about potential funding!

If you’re not sure where to start, feel free to contact me at gwisemanconsulting@gmail.com for a pro bono consultation.

 

Greg is a Research and Development Consultant and Innovator with extensive Product Development, Project Management and Strategy experience. He’s known for his strong expertise in food/beverage formula and process development as well as project management and commercialization to deliver innovation and drive growth.

He’s worked for and with many Fortune 100 companies including Kraft Foods, Starbucks, McDonalds and Nature’s Bounty as well as early stage start-ups.

Greg is also an entrepreneur having ideated, patented and successfully commercialized a repositionable magnetic frame hanging system – Gallery Magic®.  He achieved nation-wide distribution in Ace Hardware and a five-star rating on Amazon and on The Grommet.

gwisemanconsulting@gmail.com

https://www.linkedin.com/in/gman-wiseman/

http://5starfoodconsulting.com

By Michael Berro, Partner and Distribution Expert at Big Idea Ventures.

 

Hopefully if you’re reading this, you’re staying home and staying safe during these times. If you are a startup, you’re probably wondering how to allocate your time when having in-person meetings is almost impossible. Here are six tactics to help you build a great distribution strategy from the safety of your home.

 

1. Create a target list. What stores and distributors do you want to be in over the next 90, 180 and 360 days? List them out by tab and put together a plan to secure them.

Create different tabs by trade channel, account size and desired date. This will help you work on sales forecasts and working capital models. In most startups, the more business you win, the more capital you are going to need. Take advantage of the extra screen time to determine how much capital you are going to need over the short, medium and long-term. We’ve seen more startups fail from running out of money than we have from slower-than-expected growth. After you’ve completed your financial and working capital models, you will also be in a much better position to raise capital from potential investors who will see that you have a buttoned-up business plan.

 

2. Get on LinkedIn. If you’re stuck at home, so are the buyers that you want to meet with or speak to. Connect with them and send them information about your products.

Refer to the tabs that you created and start reaching out to the people who can help move the needle in your business. Start connecting with buyers of desired accounts and potential brokers and sales reps for your products. If you can’t find some of the contacts that you need to move your business to the next level, ask for help on LinkedIn or other social media sites. There is almost certainly someone in your network that can help you with the connections you need.

 

3. Set up Appointments. When the virus is over, everyone will be looking to set up appointments with key retailers and wholesalers. Buyers will be buried with requests and catching up when they get back to the office. Now is the time to get on buyers’ calendars for June, July and August before the rest of the world does.

In addition to getting a head start on your competitors for buyers’ time and attention, you’re also demonstrating a tremendous amount of initiative that will be valued by your potential customers. In addition to helping you grow your business, showing this meeting calendar along with the aforementioned financial models will make your company look like a much more secure investment.

 

4. Reach out to potential investors. Yes, this is a difficult time to ask people for money, but that doesn’t mean you’re wasting your time by speaking to them. 

In order to get someone to write you a check, especially a large one, the first thing you need to do is get on their radar. When you’re done using your extra time to improve your sales deck, improve your investor deck, tighten up your projections, and lock in appointments, the next thing to do is to start telling people how awesome your business will be when all of this is over. Find strategic investors who will tell you “if you do half of this stuff, please come back to me!” Then, go out and make it happen.

 

5. Create a consumer email database. This tactic can not only grow your e-commerce business, but will also allow you to reach your consumers during these trying times to communicate with them about product delays, personnel changes, and any other important changes that may be occurring.

There are a bunch of ways to grow your database: offer raffles for customers to send you their email addresses, go through all of your emails while you are stuck at home to make sure any potential customers are in your database, and ask customers on your website and social media to sign up to receive emails about exclusive news and promotions.

 

Don’t panic. Every challenge is an opportunity. If you’re taking steps to grow your business while others are sitting idle, you will be well-positioned for success.

The only things we should worry about in life and business are the things that we can control. If you’re stuck inside for the next two weeks or two months, the only thing you should worry about is maximizing your time.

Alicia Grayeb

 

You hear conversations starting with: “Once everything goes back to normal… “, “I cannot wait to retake my normal life”, and “When are we going back to normal?”.

The truth is, what we know as normal or “business as usual” should not be something we aspire to go back to. We need to shift from a consumerist approach to a planet and people-oriented one. That means a shift in behaviour from always acquiring more to getting only what is essential. This pandemic has revealed the value of time spent with people and the importance of our health. Suddenly, a luxurious life is not as important as being able to help our neighbors and keep our communities healthy. It has also shown us that our economy is fragile and faulty. Millennials have already experienced three economic crises– the internet bubble, the 2009 recession, and the current pandemic– and we haven’t even lived half our lives yet!

On a personal level, we can learn from the pandemic and start supporting local businesses more than ever. We have learned that buying fast-fashion, non-essential clothing is not as important as we once thought. We have learned to appreciate our freedom and what it is like to be in confinement. We have seen that a halt to all non-essential activities has restored the flora and fauna in many countries, allowing animals to roam freely. Our oceans and air are getting cleaner and our planet has been able to breathe again.

Why do we want to go back to a world where our goods are shipped from miles away, made using non-renewable resources that will take thousands of years to biodegrade? Why do we want to go back to a world where companies are depleting the Earth of its resources and capability to restore itself, a world where companies’ main focus is growing their bottom lines? We need to take this opportunity to go back to a world where we live and breathe Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). What do I mean by this? Simply that businesses should thrive without compromising the ability of the planet to regenerate itself, in turn bettering society.

We have read numerous times about what we can do as consumers to raise our voice and demand companies to be greener. This post is not directed to you, the consumer. This is for the organizations out there, and most importantly, for the startups. Founders need to embrace a triple bottom line strategy that fully considers the wellbeing of the planet all the stakeholders of the business. This does not mean startups should not thrive or grow. Since startups excel at doing more with fewer resources, they can prosper without compromising our planet and our communities.

 

How can CSR help startups thrive?

CSR policies are the steps organizations take that go beyond what companies are legally bound to report, to better the environment and society. Startups can start to do this through a series of simple steps, both in their internal and external operations.

Internal Operations:

  1. Encouraging mental wellness: Check in on your team. Are they motivated? On the brink of burnout? Do they need a break? We are all dealing with things we never have before, both on a personal and professional level. Be flexible with their time, trust they will do their part of the job, and show them you trust them. There is no need for non-essential micromanagement and daily calls to “show results”. Give them time to breathe and stay healthy so they can, in turn, be productive and happy to be part of the team. Needless to say a 9-5, five days a week is a thing of the past! Besides, if people can work from home, they mitigate carbon emissions: less transport usage and less traffic, as well as less use of buildings and office space.
  2. Providing financial security: An honest reassurance that your team’s jobs are not immediately at stake, or that you can help them apply for assistance if needed, will take a big burden off of their shoulders. Also, make sure you are giving your team fair and competitive remuneration for their work. It is easy to feel undervalued by getting an uncompetitive paycheck compared to similar posts in other organizations.
  3. Fewer emails: Keep emails to what they are: a formal e-letter. Use other media for other non-relevant communications like built-in chat apps and text messages. If something is absolutely urgent, consider a phone call.  Emails are hardly ever the best way to get urgent things done. Environmentally speaking, a small change like sending fewer emails can help you substantially reduce your startup’s carbon footprint. On average, a year’s worth of emails per person in terms of CO2 emissions is roughly equivalent to taking three round-trip flights from New York to Toronto.
  4. Keep your server farms local: The rooms where servers are stored get hot, especially if thousands of servers are kept in one place by a company like Google Cloud, Dropbox, or AWS. Keeping your own servers also means more data security for you and your clients. Remember, if you build your own solutions, you own all of your data and avoid data collection and replication by third parties. If you keep your data to yourself, you also disrupt global supply chains. A good example is the use of a CRM platform. Can you build your own or use an open-source, local platform? Maybe you can choose a firm that can ensure the security of your data and your clients’ personal information and whose servers are not stored with thousands others, thus emitting a considerably smaller amount of CO2. It is very tempting to go for the big companies that offer huge discounts to hook you on their systems, but then make it almost impossible to leave because of data transferability. Cheap sometimes gets very expensive in the long run. If you still need to partner with big companies, make sure they have an honest CSR strategy in place and are not implementing greenwashing practices.

 

External Operations

  1. Support small businesses: Make sure you get your supplies from as many local businesses as possible. This helps to strengthen the economic environment of your community and to create trust among your team and customers. Most of the time, supporting local businesses also means helping the environment, as their products are typically less resource-intensive.
  2. Partner strategically: As a startup, you need to make sure that the ideas and values of the people and organizations you partner with are in line with your values and with the planet. Remember, partnerships are mutually beneficial.
  3. Adapt and be resilient: Always be aware of what the market trends are and what matters to your current and potential customers. Can you shift some or all of your current solutions to get ahead of the game and help solve the current pressing issues with health and the environment? Maybe your technology can be transferred to make hand sanitizer or biodegradable face masks– for example, some companies in the liquor and oil cleaning sectors have transformed their operations to produce hand sanitizer.

 

Decision-making that considers the market, the community, and society at large is critical to sustaining relevance. Anticipate and share. Learn how to be proactive and not reactive and beware of disruptive evolutions to make them work for you and your startup. Be ready to face disruption and not fight against it, as it is inevitable. Remember, these times are not the new normal– they are a preview of what things could be like in terms of environmental benefits. You, as startup founders, have the power to help create what the new normal will be in a world where we embrace the planet and put society and the environment before economic growth.

 

 

Alicia Grayeb is a sustainability professional and advocate speaker. She supervises early stage startups at the Venn Garage in Venn Innovation in Atlantic Canada. Alicia’s focus is to make companies embrace Corporate Sustainability and promote a greener economy.

You can follow Alicia on Twitter: @alicegyb and on LinkedIn

 

Some other third party related useful reads: 

Alicia Grayeb

You hear conversations starting with: “Once everything goes back to normal… “, “I cannot wait to retake my normal life”, and “When are we going back to normal?”.

The truth is, what we know as normal or “business as usual” should not be something we aspire to go back to. We need to shift from a consumerist approach to a planet and people-oriented one. That means a shift in behaviour from always acquiring more to getting only what is essential. This pandemic has revealed the value of time spent with people and the importance of our health. Suddenly, a luxurious life is not as important as being able to help our neighbors and keep our communities healthy. It has also shown us that our economy is fragile and faulty. Millennials have already experienced three economic crises– the internet bubble, the 2009 recession, and the current pandemic– and we haven’t even lived half our lives yet!

On a personal level, we can learn from the pandemic and start supporting local businesses more than ever. We have learned that buying fast-fashion, non-essential clothing is not as important as we once thought. We have learned to appreciate our freedom and what it is like to be in confinement. We have seen that a halt to all non-essential activities has restored the flora and fauna in many countries, allowing animals to roam freely. Our oceans and air are getting cleaner and our planet has been able to breathe again.

Why do we want to go back to a world where our goods are shipped from miles away, made using non-renewable resources that will take thousands of years to biodegrade? Why do we want to go back to a world where companies are depleting the Earth of its resources and capability to restore itself, a world where companies’ main focus is growing their bottom lines? We need to take this opportunity to go back to a world where we live and breathe Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). What do I mean by this? Simply that businesses should thrive without compromising the ability of the planet to regenerate itself, in turn bettering society.

We have read numerous times about what we can do as consumers to raise our voice and demand companies to be greener. This post is not directed to you, the consumer. This is for the organizations out there, and most importantly, for the startups. Founders need to embrace a triple bottom line strategy that fully considers the wellbeing of the planet all the stakeholders of the business. This does not mean startups should not thrive or grow. Since startups excel at doing more with fewer resources, they can prosper without compromising our planet and our communities.

How can CSR help startups thrive?

CSR policies are the steps organizations take that go beyond what companies are legally bound to report, to better the environment and society. Startups can start to do this through a series of simple steps, both in their internal and external operations.

Internal Operations:

  1. Encouraging mental wellness: Check in on your team. Are they motivated? On the brink of burnout? Do they need a break? We are all dealing with things we never have before, both on a personal and professional level. Be flexible with their time, trust they will do their part of the job, and show them you trust them. There is no need for non-essential micromanagement and daily calls to “show results”. Give them time to breathe and stay healthy so they can, in turn, be productive and happy to be part of the team. Needless to say a 9-5, five days a week is a thing of the past! Besides, if people can work from home, they mitigate carbon emissions: less transport usage and less traffic, as well as less use of buildings and office space.
  2. Providing financial security: An honest reassurance that your team’s jobs are not immediately at stake, or that you can help them apply for assistance if needed, will take a big burden off of their shoulders. Also, make sure you are giving your team fair and competitive remuneration for their work. It is easy to feel undervalued by getting an uncompetitive paycheck compared to similar posts in other organizations.
  3. Fewer emails: Keep emails to what they are: a formal e-letter. Use other media for other non-relevant communications like built-in chat apps and text messages. If something is absolutely urgent, consider a phone call.  Emails are hardly ever the best way to get urgent things done. Environmentally speaking, a small change like sending fewer emails can help you substantially reduce your startup’s carbon footprint. On average, a year’s worth of emails per person in terms of CO2 emissions is roughly equivalent to taking three round-trip flights from New York to Toronto.
  4. Keep your server farms local: The rooms where servers are stored get hot, especially if thousands of servers are kept in one place by a company like Google Cloud, Dropbox, or AWS. Keeping your own servers also means more data security for you and your clients. Remember, if you build your own solutions, you own all of your data and avoid data collection and replication by third parties. If you keep your data to yourself, you also disrupt global supply chains. A good example is the use of a CRM platform. Can you build your own or use an open-source, local platform? Maybe you can choose a firm that can ensure the security of your data and your clients’ personal information and whose servers are not stored with thousands others, thus emitting a considerably smaller amount of CO2. It is very tempting to go for the big companies that offer huge discounts to hook you on their systems, but then make it almost impossible to leave because of data transferability. Cheap sometimes gets very expensive in the long run. If you still need to partner with big companies, make sure they have an honest CSR strategy in place and are not implementing greenwashing practices.

External Operations

  1. Support small businesses: Make sure you get your supplies from as many local businesses as possible. This helps to strengthen the economic environment of your community and to create trust among your team and customers. Most of the time, supporting local businesses also means helping the environment, as their products are typically less resource-intensive.
  2. Partner strategically: As a startup, you need to make sure that the ideas and values of the people and organizations you partner with are in line with your values and with the planet. Remember, partnerships are mutually beneficial.
  3. Adapt and be resilient: Always be aware of what the market trends are and what matters to your current and potential customers. Can you shift some or all of your current solutions to get ahead of the game and help solve the current pressing issues with health and the environment? Maybe your technology can be transferred to make hand sanitizer or biodegradable face masks– for example, some companies in the liquor and oil cleaning sectors have transformed their operations to produce hand sanitizer.

Decision-making that considers the market, the community, and society at large is critical to sustaining relevance. Anticipate and share. Learn how to be proactive and not reactive and beware of disruptive evolutions to make them work for you and your startup. Be ready to face disruption and not fight against it, as it is inevitable. Remember, these times are not the new normal– they are a preview of what things could be like in terms of environmental benefits. You, as startup founders, have the power to help create what the new normal will be in a world where we embrace the planet and put society and the environment before economic growth.

Alicia Grayeb is a sustainability professional and advocate speaker. She supervises early stage startups at the Venn Garage in Venn Innovation in Atlantic Canada. Alicia’s focus is to make companies embrace Corporate Sustainability and promote a greener economy.

You can follow Alicia on Twitter: @alicegyb and on LinkedIn

Some other third party related useful reads: 

By David Postolski from Gearhart Law

As sophisticated science makes it possible to produce new products that taste even better than the foods we’ve come to love, alternative protein startups are making their impact around the world.  And of course, with innovation comes intellectual property protection: the only solution in the U.S. and abroad if you want to protect your process, products, methods, and services from copycats and infringers.  It also acts as a barrier of entry to firms seeking to fill the same need as your entrepreneurial food venture. But how do you go from idea to protected property?

Patents

If you make something that is both novel and non-obvious, in other words, sufficiently inventive, compared to what is already in the marketplace, you can register your idea as an invention with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), through a patent application filing. The process to obtain a grant of your patent application filing takes about three years and usually begins with a worldwide search to figure out what exactly distinguishes your product and what aspects are protectable.  A patent attorney will help you by drafting the proper documents to prove your idea is patent-worthy. Being awarded a U.S. patent grants you the sole right to exclude someone else from making, using, or selling your invention in the U.S.  However, this right will last for 20 years from the day you file and is not renewable.  Such patent rights can be filed in different countries, but inventors/companies only have a limited time to do so!  Like other emerging technologies such as cannabis, software, and the life sciences, obtaining a patent is becoming the gold standard in the world of plant-based products and technologies. Without something truly unique and protected, how enduring can you be?

Trademarks

You’ve heard it before and it rings true in the plant-based and food industries as well– it’s ALL ABOUT THE BRANDING!   Branding is equally as important as the product itself, and this is especially true for food companies. In the world of marketing, the term “brand” is broad. But in IP, it is defined as “a symbol, word, or words legally registered or established by use as representing a company or product”. We call this a trademark.

Like patents, trademarks are only approved if no one has filed for the same brand or a brand that consumers may find confusingly similar. If someone has, then you may need to add a unique logo. Selling a different type of good or service under an existing name may be permissible, but the original trademark holder may believe that consumers could confuse the two products, and are often not okay with that possibility. A golden rule is to steer clear of generic and descriptive words and logos (such as pictures of plants!).  Your trademark should have a suggestive meaning or an arbitrary meaning to the actual product or service you are making. Making your brand distinct enough to stand out on a shelf and in the digital marketplace is hard!  A distinctive brand is not just good for marketing; it is the safest way to achieve a federal U.S. trademark, which can also be filed in other countries. This U.S. right lasts for 10 years and is renewable for 10-year periods in perpetuity.

Copyrights

The last type of intellectual property is copyright, which protects any sort of creative work that is both original and in a fixed medium. In the food world, recipes are not protectable by copyright, but the creative content that your company generates – such as website content, marketing materials, blogs, original artworks, and designs – are!  This fact is often overlooked, but registering your creative works with the copyright office first is a must. With a copyright, you are simply registering your work without much investigation by the copyright office. If your copyright registration holds up against scrutiny as being original, then it will last the creator’s lifetime, plus 70 years.

Trade Secrets

Another popular form of federal IP protection in the alternative protein and larger food industry is trade secret protection. A trade secret can be a formula, practice, recipe, process, design, instrument, pattern, or compilation of information, which is not generally known or reasonably ascertainable, by which a business can obtain an economic advantage over competitors or customers. It is often a food company’s confidential or classified information. If you can keep it a secret and treat it as such to the world (this is harder than some companies realize) and internally with processes and non-disclosure agreements, the court will protect it as a secret if someone should misappropriate or steal it from you. Your secret does not expire like a patent and there are no federal registration costs. Of course, there are costs associated with processes and procedures for ensuring what you have is indeed a secret and protected as such.

In the alternative protein and plant-based industry, unconventional and non-obvious ingredients, cooking practices and methods are indeed novel and patentable, especially if they create unexpected results and discoveries not yet seen. The scientific, physiological, and physical aspects of the food you create from existing ingredients, or unexpected and not-so-obvious ingredients, can lead to patents that you can protect and monetize through your company.  Where branding is integral to digital marketing and internet traffic, it is essential that a trademark is cleared for use before actually using it.  The worst news to deliver to a brand owner is that the money they spent on their brand is all for naught as another company already has a trademark registration for a similar name or logo.  Food companies must understand the consequences of their marketing efforts in copyright when using social media sites and posting public content.  Understanding the value of copyright in what you create and how you publish it may determine your ability to control and monetize your copyrighted creative works.

Plant based products and alternative protein technologies are not just the new kid on the block anymore– they are here to stay. This should mean an adherence to the current regulatory schemes of intellectual property rights!

For more information on any of the above, please contact David Postolski at david@gearhartlaw.com

By Mia Medicus, Program Manager at Big Idea Ventures

We’ve all felt the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on our lives and our economy. While no one can say with certainty how long this “new normal” will last, we can all recognize that adjustments are needed to get us through the near term.

The need for adaptation is abundantly clear in our food supply chain. Nearly every aspect of our food system has been affected, causing bottlenecks that lead to food uncertainty and waste. Food companies are needing to navigate new challenges and adapt to shifting demand.

Agricultural Harvesting Workforce

America’s agricultural sector depends heavily on foreign workers to pick crops; last year, nearly 250,000 foreign workers were employed in American agriculture. Travel impediments and delays processing work visas have slowed the inflow of labor in this sector, and the migrant workers who do arrive often reside in close living quarters, putting these populations at higher risk of an outbreak. Labor supply bottlenecks and the health risk to workers could lead to lower agricultural yield, decreasing the availability of some crops.

How to Adapt: Plan ahead by lining up backup suppliers in case of procurement issues. If you encounter ingredient shortages, consider consulting with a food scientist to identify viable substitutions until supply levels recover.

Virus Outbreaks at Food Plants

Food processing plant workers operate in close quarters on cramped assembly lines, putting employees at risk of contracting the virus and increasing the likelihood of plant-wide outbreaks. Meat processing plants in particular rely on tightly staffed assembly lines to keep up their high output, which has led to outbreaks within the plants and subsequent closings. The novel coronavirus has kept thousands of meat processing plant workers away from work, raising concerns about the possibility of supply shortages.

How to Adapt: If your product requires a labor-intensive manufacturing process, stay up to date on the health and safety measures taken by the facility. You’ll want to ensure the plant is taking the necessary precautions to protect employees and avoid a closure.

Alt-dairy and alt-meat companies will want to take into account the ways in which livestock and dairy farmers have been affected. Constraints on meat processing plants’ capacity limit the amount of meat that can be processed and supplied to grocery stores; several large meat suppliers are offering fewer varieties in order to increase the production of standard cuts despite these limits. At the same time, consumer demand for meat that was once distributed between grocery stores and restaurants has shifted to grocery stores alone. Meat suppliers cannot shift as quickly, as it is difficult to adapt larger cuts and quantities intended for food service to grocery store shelves. Alt-meat companies might consider this an opportunity to supplement grocery stores’ unmet demand for meat.

Mismatches Between Supply and Demand

Mismatched supply and demand is not unique to meat. Grocery stores and food banks have experienced a surge in demand, but many US farmers have needed to dispose of unsold goods. Supply chains equipped to service restaurants and grocery stores have struggled to repackage bulk goods into consumer packages suitable for grocery shelves, and grocery stores don’t have relationships with these suppliers. This has led to a shortage of consumer packaged goods and a surplus of bulk food products.

How to Adapt: Start by assessing the changes in your customer makeup. You’ll want to pivot to service customers with the highest need levels for the near term.

  • Restaurants: Restaurant demand has been suppressed significantly. Recovery is likely to be gradual as safety measures required to reopen, such as tighter maximum capacities and a necessary 6 feet between customers, will prevent these buyers from operating at full capacity until additional protective measures like accurate antibody testing, contact tracing or a vaccine can be broadly implemented.
  • Schools and Universities: The recovery of school cafeteria demand will depend on timing at the state level. Many universities have announced that online classes will continue through the fall semester. Expect a slow demand recovery here.
  • Grocery Stores: Grocery stores have experienced increased demand as a result of restaurant closings, but have seen a shift in consumer preferences. Shoppers are ‘panic buying’ shelf stable goods and paper products, as well as buying more in fewer trips. If you’re currently producing in bulk and consumer packages, find out if your manufacturer has the capacity to move some of your product intended for bulk packaging to CPG. If you are unable to repurpose excess bulk product for retail and online sales, don’t let it go to waste! The economic downturn caused by the novel coronavirus is expected to increase the number of food-insecure Americans by nearly 20 million, adding to the 37 million already considered food-insecure. Resources like Feeding America can connect you with food banks in your area, many of which are able to distribute bulk deliveries to people in need. A staggering increase in unemployment has required many Americans to cut back financially, and widespread uncertainty and lack of consumer confidence are likely to decrease unnecessary spending among those fortunate enough to have stable employment. Spending on necessities like food will continue, albeit more consciously. CPG brands might consider pursuing private label opportunities to offer lower-cost items for grocery store shoppers.
  • E-Commerce: Many people have turned to online grocery shopping to avoid the long lines and potential health risks of going to the store. While launching online D2C sales through your company website will help maintain sales from a loyal customer base, you might miss an opportunity to reach new customers by limiting yourself to this approach. The influx of online grocery shopping has led to shortages of well-known brands on popular online grocery providers like Amazon, creating an opportunity for lesser-known brands. New companies should aim to have their products available on these sites to gain awareness amongst consumers looking for substitute products.

Prevailing through today’s challenges is no easy task for a business, especially for emerging brands who lack the financial cushion of larger corporations. Startup companies have the advantage of being adaptable, though, and alt-protein startups in particular have an opportunity to fill the increasingly evident gaps and inefficiencies in our food system.

The rapid growth across Asia in the alternative protein space over the last couple of years is reflected in the amount of fundraising and the development of innovative new products – from plant-based mooncakes, dumplings to those tailored to Chinese cuisine – cell based shrimp dimsum to plant-based crayfish.

Existing US food technology players such as Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat are already pursuing Asian market , but can they compete with the many homegrown alternative protein  companies that are innovating rapidly ?

Asian consumer appetites differs greatly to their Western counterparts. Hence for startups in the Asian alternative protein space- new product development must be mindful to cater to regional tastes.

Apart from the challenge to get these new products mainstream whether it is plant-based or cell based meat, price is another important factor.

Singapore market with its diverse population has been a springboard to help  many of these new innovations expand across Southeast Asia. The country is taking the lead to support new protein startups ,developing regulatory frameworks, particularly on the cellular meat front.

Cultivated / Cell based or Plant Based meat – are Asians going to bite ?

Attend this purposely constructed webinar on ASIA Sustainable Proteins that lines up 6 powerful speeches to give you an insight on where Alternative protein is heading in the region

Lux Research addresses the need to close the  sensorial gap between animal meat products and alternative protein products.

Keller & Heckman gives an update on the regulatory framework for alternative protein acceptance in Asia.

And an interactive, exciting panel discussion of plant-based and cell based meat innovators – Hear them battle out on the commercial and technical considerations.

2020 has been a big year for cellular agriculture.

From record investments to companies advancing the future of food, the cellular agriculture field continued to move forward to transform our food system. In spite of the devastating impact of the pandemic, companies continued to achieve milestone after milestone.

We’re bringing everyone together at the Cellular Agriculture: End of the Year Summit 2020 to celebrate the field’s progress and predict what to expect moving forward in 2021.

From companies and investors to key stakeholders, join us for a 1-day event on December 14th to hear from and network with global leaders and industry experts from the cellular agriculture field.

We’re excited to use the online event platforms HeySummit and Gather to find an engaging way to interact with the entire cellular agriculture ecosystem virtually.

Get your ticket today and be a part of the future with cellular agriculture. To enhance the networking experience, we are limiting the summit to 125 tickets.

We will announce the detailed schedule soon and will add speakers as we get closer to the date.

Bringing the Cellular Agriculture Industry together

From cell-based meat and dairy to biomaterials, learn from experts and leaders across sectors in the cellular agriculture industry.

Whether you’re looking to discover the invesment landscape or understand the scaling challanges to commercialize – we’ve got you covered with a wide range of presentations, panel discussions, and networking sessions.

An online conference that seeks to educate and develop young aspiring entrepreneurs into the next stage of their entrepreneurial journey.

Come join us for a fun-filled day of talks and workshops by top industry leaders and interactive networking sessions with like-minded youths!

Plant-based algae textile company Algaeing, led by CEO Renana Krebs, has won top prize at VWS Pathfinder, the world’s first global competition dedicated to female vegan founders. Taking home the winner’s reward package valued at over US$50,000, Krebs says that the startup will continue to accelerate the development of algae-powered sustainable solutions to green the textile industry.

VWS Pathfinder, organised by the Vegan Women Summit (VWS), took place virtually on Saturday (December 5), featuring 46 founders, investors and industry figures hailing from over 20 countries globally. Five finalists were handpicked among over 800 applications from 31 countries, including 60% women of colour entrepreneurs and more than a quarter of Black founders, to showcase their innovative plant-based solutions, ranging from food to fashion.

At Algaeing, we’ve patented a unique algae-based method to create and dye textiles, actively enabling sustainable manufacturing.

Renana Krebs, Co-Founder & CEO of Algaeing

Renana Krebs, CEO of Tel Aviv-based Algaeing, a firm developing algae-based sustainable bio-fibres in a 100% closed loop system, took home the winner’s prize. Valued at over US$50,000, it includes a US$10,000 cash reward sponsored by Purple Orange Ventures, US$35,000 worth of branding services from Evolution Bureau and more perks such as a global membership to WeWork office space.

Commenting on the win, Krebs said: “As an entrepreneur and a mother, I am honoured and thrilled that Algaeing has been selected the winner of the VWS Pathfinder Pitch Competition. At Algaeing, we’ve patented a unique algae-based method to create and dye textiles, actively enabling sustainable manufacturing.”

“We believe in being a force for good and are so excited to have the support of VWS Pathfinder so we can continue creating groundbreaking plant-based innovation solutions for a healthy environment for us and future generations,” Krebs added.

The other four finalists that Krebs competed against at the live pitch competition included Whistler-based Aki Kaltenbach, founder and CEO of plant-based seafood brand Save Da Sea FoodsAstrid Prajogo, founder and CEO of Shanghai’s peanut protein chicken startup HaoFoodCourtney Blagrove, co-founder of Whipped Urban Dessert Lab in New York; and Isabella Iglesias-Musachio, co-founder of Berlin-based mycelium alternative meat company Kinoko Labs.

The plant-based revolution is here — and it is being led by women. We are thrilled to announce Renana and Algaeing as our first VWS Pathfinder winner.

Jennifer Stojkovic, Founder, VWS

VWS Pathfinder also featured a keynote speech led by Miyoko Schinner, the founder and CEO of famed plant-based dairy brand Miyoko’s Creamery, together with Shama Sukul Lee, CEO of New Zealand-based vegan meat alternative startup Sunfed.

Other industry figures including Matilda Ho of China food tech venture fund Bits x Bites, actress and co-founder of Kinder Beauty Daniella Monet, and Denise Woodward of Partake Foods also participated in the event, alongside top investors and funds like Stray Dog CapitalVegInvestKBW Ventures and Big Idea Ventures.

Speaking about hosting the world’s first vegan founder pitch competition, Jennifer Stojkovic, founder of VWS, said: “The plant-based revolution is here — and it is being led by women. We are thrilled to announce Renana and Algaeing as our first VWS Pathfinder winner. Algaeing represents an exciting new area of innovation for plant-based founders. We received over 800 applications from 31 countries for this pitch competition and we can certainly say that the future of algae is very bright with pitches from many algae-based products ranging from fabrics to yogurts.”

HAE SoCal’s Food & Agtech Series is a three-part event focused on uncovering the future of food from the perspective of entrepreneurs and investors across the Harvard alumni community.

The second event The Future of Food: Investors’ Perspectives on Trends to Watch in 2021 features several prominent investors from across the food and agtech investor community to discuss what emerging trends we should watch for related to the food system – sustainability, carbon capture, changing consumer behavior and hot spots for innovation.

Panelists

Ariadne Caballero, Partner,SP Ventures

Alex Bondar, HBS’14, Partner,  Acre Venture Partners

Andrew Ive, HBS’97, Founder & Managing Partner at Big Idea Ventures

Moderator

Milena Bursztyn, ALM’11, Investor, Germin8 Ventures

A hype or THE future? In this event, we deep dive into the alternative protein landscape, as experts share their viewpoints on the trends and tech in this area. In this exciting event, we explore various facets of cultured meat, from serum-free media, to next-generation scaffolds, to seafood cell lines, to tissue engineering & meatcuts technology.

 

Speakers:

  1. Prof. Can Akcali, Chief science officer, Biftek.Co
  2. Vinayaka Srinivas, Co-Founder, GaiaFoods
  3. Mihir Pershad, Co-Founder & CEO, Umami Meats
  4. Shujian Ong, Co-founder & Director of Research and Development, Ants Innovate

Host & Moderator:

  • Jie Ai Lim, Ecosystem Development, NUS Enterprise
  • Matthew Zhao, Food Scientist at Big Idea Ventures

About the Distinguished Speakers:

Prof. Can Akcali is the chief science officer of Biftek INC that develops growth medium to make cultured meat affordable. He has a MD degree from Ankara University and PhD degree from University of Cincinnati, Department of Cellular and Molecular Biology. He worked as a professor in Bilkent University Molecular Biology and Genetics Department. Currently he is vice president in Stem Cell Institute in Ankara University. Prof. Akcali is the recipient of Novartis Science Award, Vehbi Koç Health Award, Gordon Research Conference Award. He is the author of many scientific papers and book chapters. He has been an advisor of numerous graduate students.

Vinayaka Srinivas (Vin) is the CEO & Co-Founder Gaia foods Vin’s mission is to help transition the world from producing and consuming butchered meat to a more sustainable, Clean and environmentally friendly cultured meat. Vin is a scientist by training and has over 10+ years of experience in stem and muscle cell research. He obtained his PhD in National University of Singapore and then went onto work in DUKE-NUS medical school to work on independent projects pertaining to muscle stem cell Biology.

Mihir Pershad is the Co-Founder & CEO of Umami Meats. A serial entrepreneur, Mihir Pershad has founded or scaled technology startups in the medical device, biotechnology, aquaculture, and education sectors. Pershad is currently the CEO of Umami Meats, a cultivated seafood startup, as well as Venture Partner at Early Charm Ventures, which partners with university professors to commercialize their innovations. Pershad has a passion for building businesses that create transformative global change. Pershad’s debut book Cultivated Abundance shows driven entrepreneurs how to maximize their impact on our world’s biggest problems.

Shujian Ong is the Co-founder & Director of Research and Development, Ants Innovate. He Shujian studied Life Sciences at the National University of Singapore and was an A*STAR scholar. He led a research team for 3 years and is now Co-founder and Director of Research and Development at Ants Innovate. He leads the development of key cultivated meat technologies to push the alternative meat industry towards the next generation of whole meat cuts.

Dr Matthew Zhao is the Food Scientist at Big Idea Ventures, a venture capital firm which invests in future food technologies in the alternative protein ecosystem. His technical expertise includes specialisation in post-harvest technology, food packaging and processing, and shelf-life evaluation. Under his guidance, several companies were successful in adopting innovative novel technology, solutions and processes to commercialise their product with better nutritional value, a stable shelf-life among other value-added functional properties. He holds a PhD in Food Technology from Massey University, New Zealand.

 

About NUS Enterprise: NUS Enterprise plays a pivotal role in advancing innovation and entrepreneurship at NUS and beyond. It actively promotes entrepreneurship and cultivates global mind-sets and talents through the synergies of experiential entrepreneurial education, active industry partnerships for technology and commercialisation, holistic entrepreneurship support and catalytic entrepreneurship outreach. Its initiatives and global connections support a range of entrepreneurial journeys and foster ecosystem building in new markets. As Asia’s Thought Leader for Innovation & Enterprise, it augments and complements the University’s academic programmes and acts as a unique bridge to industry well beyond Singapore’s shores.

About Big Idea Ventures: Big Idea Ventures is solving the world’s greatest challenges by supporting the best entrepreneurs. We’re a venture capital fund and startup accelerator investing in and accelerating top performers in the new food space. Our first fund, The New Protein Fund (size $50M), is investing in the most innovative companies working on plant-based foods/ingredients, food technology, and alternative proteins. We combine capital, partnerships, and mentorship to support and grow the world’s most compelling plant-based food and alternative protein companies.

Lorem ipsum | Vietnam | cesiscompany.vn

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